Mystery Fruit – Poha, or Cape Gooseberry

Cape Gooseberries

Saturday mornings mean my usual pilgrimage to the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market. I try to go early, before the bulk of gawkers and tourists arrive, but I usually get there just as everyone else does. And truth be told, I don’t really mind. I wander happily through the crowds, Blue Bottle cappuccino in hand, and gawk. This weekend, as Andy stopped off to buy some Fava Beans, I strolled over to Tierra Vegetables to gobble taste some of their famous pepper jams. The jams were as good as ever, but as I made my way from the Mystery Pepper Jam to the Chipotle Jam, I caught a glimpse of what looked like little gold tomatillos. When Andy and I tried them, we found them to be more fruit than vegetable – sweet and tangy, a little like a gooseberry. I was so enamoured, I thought I’d enter them into this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.

It turns out that, while the fruit is a close relative of the tomatillo and part of the nightshade family, it is often called a Cape Gooseberry. It is also sometimes called Husk Cherry, Peruvian Ground Cherry, and in Hawaii, Poha or Poha Berry. The Latin name is Physalis peruviana.

Native to Brazil, the plant now grows wild in much of South America and Hawaii and is cultivated in many temperate regions, including South Africa, where it has long been popular. It is commonly used in jams and sauces, but can also be eaten fresh.

Chocolate Dipped Cape Gooseberry

According to the friendly folks at Tierra Vegetables, this is a common preparation in France. The golden husks make for a beautiful presentation.

1/2 lb Ripe Poha/Cape Gooseberry
8 oz dark chocolate

Pull husks away from berries, but leave them attached to form a handle for holding and dipping. With a damp paper towel, gently wipe the berries clean. They must be completely dry before dipping in the chocolate. In a heavy pan, melt chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. When chocolate is fully melted, dip berries until they are about 2/3 covered. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to harden. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate.

18 Responses to “Mystery Fruit – Poha, or Cape Gooseberry”

  1. Cape gooseberry truffles! I doesn’t get any easier than this: peel the husks, dip in chocolate.

    Thanks for your great entry for WHB!

  2. Never heard of it before. Thanks for the lesson.

  3. My grandmother grew these 55 years ago in upstate NY. In 1960 we moved to Cincinnati Ohio and I remember going with her to some of the local nurseries. She was from France and had a fairly thick accent, and none of the Ohio places had a clue what she was talking about when she asked for “Little yellow tomatoes that grow in their own paper bags”

    I have not seen them since, where can I get seeds? Plants? I am in Boston now, I shall print this and take it to the nurseries here in the spring.

    Thank you for bringing back some memories!

  4. What timing! I work for a wedding planner and was working a wedding last night. For dessert there was a “berry bar” and there was a giant bowl full of these cape berries! I had never seen them before, but now I’ve seen them twice in two days! :)

  5. In my country Colombia – South America there is quite similar fruit it called “uchuva”. Now there is “uchuva” mermelade made from this fruit. Also is a delicious company for “aguardiente” liquor.

  6. Over from Tastespotting – I saw these fruit and I wanted to see if you liked this fruit – I had a bad experience with them, and chocolate-dipped at that! (If interested in the story, it’s under “Most Popular Posts” – The Winter Cherry) – but it sounds like I had a bad batch and should give them another try! In Italy they are called “Alchechengi”

  7. Its called aguaymanto here and its widely used in new peruvian cuisine or novoandina cuisine….

  8. I think that the aguamanto comes from peru, too, hence the name Physalis peruviana

  9. How fascinating. I’ve never heard of these before, so I’m excited to find out about something new. Great entry, thanks for participating!

  10. How timely…I was at a hotel function and they served a dessert with a cape gooseberry on it…ever trying new things!

  11. what a wonderful photographer you are!!!!

  12. Well, when I was a little girl, my mother had some in the garden and called them “ground cherries”. They made the best jam…wish I had some now…thanks for the memories.

  13. Thanks, everyone, for the fabulous comments!

    Susan – Thank you for hosting last week!

    Stef – I’d never heard of them until we discovered them last weekend, but they’re a great find.

    Suzane – I’m glad they stirred up some memories. Not sure where to find them, but I hear they germinate and grow very easily. If you like, I could inquire about seeds from the grower.

    Maxine – They’re wonderful for ending a meal because they’re not too sweet – I’m going to have to try them with some cheese pairings, too!

    Iagdo – I believe uchuva are the same berry. I had no idea how many different names these little fruit had! I’m curious to know if they are muddled into the alcohol or eaten along side?

    Sara – Thanks for the link to your tasting – I’ve never had them made into a truffle like that with liqueur, but the fruit itself is almost perfumey sweet, lightly fragrant, and a little tangy. A bit like the cross between a tangerine and a blueberry.

    Paul – It does make sense that they’d be originally from Peru, given their Latin name. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them in the Peruvian restaurants we have in San Francisco.

    Kalyn – I was excited to find them too! Thanks for the visit.

    Peter – Wow, I’m surprised to find them on a hotel catering menu, that’s great – how did you like them?

    Bee – Thanks!

    Randi – I was hoping to pick up some more for jam, but the farm didn’t have any this week. I’m hoping they’ll have more soon though. Glad we brought back some good memories.

  14. How wonderful to see that the gooseberries are available world over. I found these in the local market the other day & made some nice fruit kobabs. Was taking a look around for info & found that they are pretty well known! They are called ‘rusbhurries’ (filled with juice) in India. Now shall go & find more uses for them! :0)

  15. I saw this berry at Safeway close by my house and was wondering. Thank you for sharing the information

  16. [...] Fruits and vegetables Fruit – Poha, or Cape Gooseberry Last CrumbIt turns out that, while the fruit is a close relative of the tomatillo and part of the nightshade [...]

  17. Even though these prefer a tropical climate, I have them growing happily in our garden in San Francisco for two years now. To plant them, just save some seeds from a ripe fruit, let dry than plant. The plant has fuzzy leaves and pretty yellow flowers. Our plant has been growing for two years now, it is huge! The fruits are only ripe when the husk is dry and the fruit is yellow or light orange. I heard the unripe fruits are toxic, see listing for cape gooseberry in wikipedia.

  18. I live in San Jose, bought my seeds from Kitazawa seeds and planted them in big garden pots after starting them in seed pots. It takes awhile for them to germinate bu they transplanted easily. They are producing madly for me. Wonderful, easy care and delicious out of hand. I will admit that most things go better with chocolate so I will try the next handful and check it out.

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