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Goldenberry (Cape Gooseberry)

The goldenberry1 (Physalis peruviana) has long been a minor fruit of the Andes and is found in markets from Venezuela to Chile. It has also been grown in Hawaii, California, South Africa, East Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia, and Great Britain. So far, however, it has nowhere become a major crop. Nonetheless, this interesting and unusual botanical relative of potatoes and tomatoes has commercial promise for many regions.2

Goldenberry fruits are succulent golden spheres the size of marbles with a pleasing taste. They are protected by papery husks resembling Chinese lanterns. The attractive and symmetrical husk with its edible yellow fruit inside gives it an eye-catching appearance and potential market appeal.

In most places where they are grown, goldenberries are now considered fruits only for backyard gardens or for children to pluck and eat. Given research, however, they could become commercial fruits of particular interest to the world's up-scale restaurants and bakeries. This is the strategy that established markets for kiwifruit in the 1960s and led to a multimillion dollar annual crop. Goldenberries already carry prestige in some international markets. Europeans, for example, often pay premium prices to dip them in chocolate3 or decorate cakes and tortes.

In addition to having a future as fresh fruits, goldenberries make excellent jam; in fact, in India, they are known commonly as “jam fruit.” In the United States they are best known as preserves marketed under the Hawaiian name “poha.”

1 The plant is more commonly called “cape gooseberry.” It is, however, not a true gooseberry. The name was adopted by Australians, who received their first plants from the Cape of Good Hope. A less cumbersome and more mellifluous name could help change its consumer image (as did the change from “Chinese gooseberry” to “kiwifruit”). The panel suggests the descriptive name “goldenberry,” which is sometimes used in Great Britain and South Africa and has been recommended as the commercial name (see Legge, 1974). Moreover, the name “goldenberry” is reminiscent of other berry fruits, such as blackberry and blueberry.
2 We recommend this species to tomato breeders seeking a challenge.
3 The husks are peeled back and make an attractive, eye-catching—and tasty—dessert.

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