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Growing Golden Berry / Cape Gooseberry: Physalis peruviana

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Overview

A member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), Golden Berry is closely related to Physalis ixocarpa - Tomatillo; Physalis pubescens - Husk Tomato; Physalis philadelphica - Mexican Groundcherry; 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.
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 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: Attracts pollinating insects.
Toxic / Danger: All parts are poisonous except ripe fruit.
Origin: Tropical Chile and Peru.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10. Hardy to 30°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: This plant needs all day 50% shade in temperatures above 85°F and extra water.
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.
Drought tolerant: No.
Water after becoming established: Daily.
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.
Mulch: Use a 3" deep layer to keep roots cool and retain moisture.
Spacing: 2-3' apart.
Planting: This plant can be grown in large containers. It needs protection from strong winds. A plastic shelter can be used to protect from light frosts.
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 is recommended. Small mammals may eat the leaves or the entire plant.
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 possibly fall, in hot desert regions. It will grow fruit to maturity in high summer temperatures once the flowers have set fruit.


Do you have additional information or a different experience for this plant that you would like to share?
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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


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Latest update: November, 2019.