Origin and distribution
The cape gooseberry belongs to the family Solanaceae. It is a native to Brazil but long ago became naturalized in the highlands of Peru and Chile and later on different tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It was being grown in England in 1774 and cultivated by settlers at the Cape of Good Hope before 1807. Soon after introduction to the Cape, the plant was carried to Australia, where it quickly blowout into wild. Seeds were taken to Hawaii before 1825 and got naturalized on all the islands at medium and somewhat higher altitude. In India, it was introduced during 1950s and is under cultivation in the north-western plains.
The genus Physalis contains around 70 species. Of them, P. peruviana and P. ixocarpa are valued for its superior quality large fruits as compare to other species. It’s trade names are Capegooseberry, Golden berry, Husk cherry, Peruvian ground cherry, Husk tomato, Strawberry tomato and Raspberry. The Cape gooseberry plant behaves as annual in temperate regions and perennial in the tropics.
The plants are 3-4 feet tall, highly branched, lanceolate to ovate leaves with serrate and dentate leaf margin, usually purple pigmented stem, and numerous yellow flowers with dark purple, brown spots. Plants are self-pollinated. Flowering started in August and lasted till first-week of September. As the fruit develops, the calyx enlarges to more or less enclose it and finally becomes straw-coloured and papery. Fruiting occurs in the month of October-November.
Nutritional value and uses
Fruits are consumed as a dessert fruit and also used in making juice and jam. The unique flavours of the fresh fruit make it an interesting ingredient in salad and cooked dishes. Cape gooseberry fruits are cooked with apple or ginger to make a very distinctive dessert. The fruits are dries to make resins Cultural practices: The plants like a sunny, frost free location. It thrives in well drained sandy to gravelly loam soil. The method of cultivation is similar to tomato. The propagation of plants is usually done by seeds. The seeds are small (1.0-1.6 g/1000 seeds). Generally, 100-150 g healthy seeds are sufficient to raise the nursery for one hectare.
Winter cultivation is recommended in subtemperate/ temperate region to obtain good quality fruits. Seeds are sown in raised beds and 3 weeks old seedlings are planted in well prepared soil to a row to row distance 75 cm and plant to plant 30cm. Four to six irrigations are requiredat an interval of 15-20 days. A very moderate dose of fertilizer is required, if no fertilizer is applied even then good fruit yield can be obtained. High dose of nitrogenous fertilizers encourages excessive growth and depress flowering. The plants began to bear the fruit after three months and continue up the to the fourth month.
The plants are prone to tobacco mosaic virus infestation, heavily infested plants should be uprooted from the field. Other pests are mites and aphids, which can be controlled by spray of malathion 0.05%) or endosulfan (0.05%), as soon as attack is noticed. Fruit dropping is a common phenomenon in cape gooseberry. Four to five flushes usually takes place till maturity. Each plant bear 100-250 fruits. The flesh is pale yellow, crisp and sub-acidic to sweet and contains many small seeds. Fruits can be stored at ambient temperature up to 3 weeks during winter.
Twenty nine accessions comprising to various Physalis species were introduced from USA at Shimla. They have characterized and evaluated and supplied to various research institutes. Characterisation data revealed wide variation in plant height (57.3 -128.33 cm), number of primary branches/plant (2.77-7.33) , lateral branches/plant (9.51-23.14), number of fruits/plant (17.20-196.8), fruit length (4.52-35.18 mm), fruit width (4.33-38.41 mm), fruit weight (8.6-35.5 g), total soluble solids (4.90-17.67%), days to fruit maturity (108-153 days) and thousand seed weight (1.18-1.68 g). EC467435, EC467438, EC467446, EC467447 and EC467449 were found high yielding with medium to large fruits. Other important species of cape gooseberry are P. heterophylla, P. ixocarpa, P. philadelphia, P. pubescence and P. viscosa.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla