By Gail Thomas

Unusual edible fruit

Clockwise from top left, tomatillos, cape gooseberries, ground cherries (photo by Gail Thomas)

As alternatives for the garden cape gooseberries, ground cherries and tomatillos (all in the Physalis family) are both edible and ornamental with their fruit forming in protective lantern-like calyxes which conveniently keeps the birds and bugs at bay.
All three species are best planted in spring and treated similarly to tomatoes. The lemon/gold flowers develop into green calyxes which turn to a papery beige hue as the fruit, suspended inside ripens from late summer through to autumn.
Cape gooseberries (Physalis peruviana) also known as goldenberry, Aztec berry, Inca berry or Peruvian cherry are native to tropical South America and grow to around 1.5m high. While treated as an annual, if planted in a warm sheltered spot, plants can be pruned back by about one third after fruiting to get a head start for the following season.
When ripe the bright orange fruit which contains tiny seeds, is around the size of a cherry tomato and boasts a delicious tangy, tropical flavour. Fruit will keep well in the husk for 3-4 weeks. They can be eaten raw, are excellent with cheese, added to fruit salads, desserts and also make exceptional preserves.
Ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) also known as Cossack pineapple are native to eastern North America and have a lower growing habit to cape gooseberries but can be used in a similar manner. They are prolific bearers and the fruit ripens to a golden/lemon colour with a refreshing tangy flavour.



Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) pronounced ‘toe-mah-tee-yo’ are native to central America, are also known as Mexican green husk tomato or tomate verde and are a staple in that country’s cuisine, being an integral ingredient in salsa verde.
These hardy plants produce fruit in a husk similar to their cape gooseberry and ground cherry relatives, however, as it matures the size of the fruit fills the husk causing it to split open. Tomatillos are about the size of a small tomato and their skin tends to have a sticky, sappy-like coating.
Green tomatillos are used for salsa and ripen to a pale lemon/gold shade with some varieties having blushes of purple on the skin. Along with being used for savoury sauces they also make an interesting soup. Ripe tomatillos are excellent in salads, combined with tomatoes and can also be baked or pickled whole as a cold meat accompaniment.



Seeds of the three species are available from Phoenix Seeds PO Box 207 Snug Tasmania 7054 email:  [email protected] and Diggers Seeds