Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Golden Berry / Cape Gooseberry:
Physalis peruviana

Back to Fruit, Berries and Nuts

Botanical Overview

A member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), Golden Berry is closely related to Physalis ixocarpa - Tomatillo; Physalis pubescens - Husk Tomato; Physalis philadelphica - known both as Tomatillo and Mexican Ground Cherry; and Physalis angulata - Cutleaf Ground Cherry. All of these plants have similar-looking, edible fruit, but Golden Berry is considered the best tasting. It is more distantly related to potato, tomato, and chili pepper.

Description

Form: An herb with vine-like tendencies that gradually becomes a soft-wooded shrub over several years.
Lifespan: Perennial in regions without freezes, annual otherwise.
Leaf retention: Evergreen in regions without freezes.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 3-6' high. This plant needs to be supported like a tomato.
Flowers: Slightly cupped, yellow, with five large brown spots around the center. The calyx grows to surround the developing fruit with a large papery brown husk.
Bloom: Spring until late fall or first frost. The plant stops blooming above 90°F and may take a summer break.
Self-fruitful: Yes. A light tap on the stem just behind the flower will cause pollination. These flowers are wind and insect pollinated.
Years before fruiting: None.
Fruit: Enclosed in a brown papery husk, they resemble a cherry tomato, with smooth, waxy, yellow to orange skin. The taste is highly variable, usually described as a sweet-tart cross between two fruits, such as pineapple and tomato, pineapple and peach, or citrus-like, possibly including passionfruit. The fruit size is also variable. One plant may produce 150 to 300 fruit in poor soil, less in enriched soil.
Months for fruit to ripen: 2.5 to 3. The fruit will finish ripening if picked green, but will not be as sweet as when vine ripened. The fruit are ripe when the stem holding the husk to the main green stem has turned brown. At that point the tough stem should be cut with scissors or clippers.
Storage after harvest: 30-45 days at room temperature if left dry in its brown, papery husk. Several months if refrigerated dry.
Leaves: Green, large, broad, with irregularly toothed margins, fuzzy.
Stems: Green and hairy.
Roots: Fibrous. Not invasive.
Cultivars of Note:
Named cultivars are not yet sold in the United States.
Wildlife: The flowers attract pollinating insects. Many insects feed on leaves and flowers. Rodents will eat leaves or the entire plant.
Toxic / Danger: All parts are poisonous except ripe fruit.
Origin: Tropical Chile and Peru.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10. Golden Berry is hardy to 30°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: This plant needs all day 50% shade in temperatures above 85°F and extra water.
Drought tolerant: No.
Sun: Before mid-spring, full sun in temperatures below 80°F, 50% all day shade otherwise. From mid-spring, 50-80% all day shade in temperatures above 85°F. From the start of fall, remove all shade so the plant receives as much sun as possible.
Planting: Locate this plant where it can be protected all day with 50% shade cloth and from strong winds. A plastic shelter can be used to protect from light frosts. It should be in poor soil that has not been fertilized or amended, spaced 2-3' apart.
Be sure to rotate your crops yearly so that nightshade family members do not grow in more than 1/4 of your garden at any one time. Nightshade family members include golden berry, tomato, chili, including Bell pepper, eggplant, petunia, potato, tomatillo, and tobacco. That will prevent the build-up of diseases which attack nightshade plants.
This plant can be grown in large containers.
Soil: Well drained, sandy, low organic content, pH 4.5-8.2 (strongly acidic to moderately alkaline). Any organic matter in the soil will reduce flowers and fruit.
Fertilize: No. Any nitrogen results in all foliage and no flowers or fruit.
Water after becoming established: Water in the morning every day at the same time. If its leaves are limp in late afternoon, use more water the next day.
Mulch: Apply organic mulch over the root area to keep roots cool and retain soil moisture.
Prune: Remove yellow and dead leaves as they appear.
Propagation: Seed.
Pests: This plant seems to have no resistance to insects and many insect species attack it. Use of an insect predator such as Green Lacewing, or neem oil, will be necessary. Rodents often eat the leaves or the entire plant in drought conditions. It may be necessary to set traps or place the plant in a half-inch wire mesh cage that extends one foot below ground to avoid rodents.
Uses: Fruit, eaten fresh, cooked with apples and ginger as dessert, made into a sauce or jam, or dried like a raisin. Dried fruit is often served chocolate-coated.

Comments

This plant is cultivated like a tomato except [1] poor soil produces more fruit than enriched soil, and [2] the plant needs all day part shade in high temperatures after mid-spring. It is invasive in tropical climates like Hawaii and Florida.
Golden Berry will only produce flowers in the spring, and for a short time in the fall, in hot desert regions. It will grow fruit to maturity in high summer temperatures once the flowers have set fruit.


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By mw (von mir fotografiert --mw 11:03, 3. Dez 2004 (CET)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By 3268zauber [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Physalis peruviana

Three-lined potato beetle, female burying beetle
Insect visitors include the Three-lined Potato Beetle,
and a female Burying Beetle.


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Latest update: October, 2022