Peruvian cherry is an ornamental plant, but it is also used in cooking
In some European countries, this plant (Physalis peruviana in Latin) is also called “dessert tomato”. It has fruits weighing about 20 grams. Species with larger and smaller fruits are grown.
There are many types of physalis in nature. The plant Physalis alkekengi L. (or bear strawberry) grows as a wild and weedy plant, but also as a wild plant on limestone soils. It has edible orange round fruits the size of a smaller cherry. The fruits are enveloped in pod-shaped membranes similar to lanterns (which acquire a red-orange color when ripening). They differ from cultivated species because the shell acquires a red color when ripening. The shell of the cultivated physalis is straw-yellow in color.
There are less known species that are grown for their aromatic fruits weighing 5 to 8 grams. Of these species, the most common are Physalis peruviana and Physalis pruinosa. Commonly known as “skin tomato” or “Peruvian ground cherry” in English-speaking countries.
Cultivation of physalis
Physalis is eaten as fruit or salad. It has a sweet and pleasant taste. Jam is made in the same way as with plums, figs or other fruits. That is why it is called “sweet tomato”. It is produced without the use of pesticides. Physalis does not need to be sprayed because the plant is resistant to pests and diseases. The plant gets blight disease (like tomatoes) in rainy years and is protected like tomatoes.
Physalis is grown similarly to tomatoes, but without support. It is sown in greenhouses at the beginning of April. During May, the plant is transplanted outdoors at a distance of 70×50 cm. It is grown on fertile land where there is plenty of sun and with irrigation. It is necessary to hoe the plant and feed it.
Physalis blooms continuously and bears fruit from August until the first autumn frost. There are about 100 fruits on one stalk that do not ripen at the same time. Ripe fruits have a yellow-brown membrane and fall off. The fruit acquires a bitter and unpleasant taste after remaining in the membrane for a long time.
Physalis fruits are rich in sugars, pectins, citric acid, vitamins C and A and minerals. The fruit is rarely eaten fresh. It is most often processed into jam or other sweets that taste like strawberry jam. The fruits can be dried, pickled and used in salads. The fruit should be carefully cleaned of the membrane (which is bitter) before use. Fresh fruits in excessive quantities cause nausea (due to the alkaloids they contain). That’s why you shouldn’t overdo it with fresh fruit.
Physalis is used in folk medicine because it is a powerful diuretic. It is used most often for the treatment of kidney stones and inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract.
Marmalade with physalis – Boil 300 grams of physalis fruits with 700 grams of honey and 2 dcl of water. Eat one spoonful of marmalade every morning before breakfast for 10 days.
Liquid jam with physalis – cook 4 to 5 large fruits, 2 spoons of powdered sugar and one grated lemon with peel in a pot. Cook gently for about 40 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour into sterilized jars. Close well and keep in the fridge.