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The many names of the physalis

Everybody knows the physalis – the little plant with the orange calyx that looks like a lantern. The name physalis means bladder, which refers to the shape of the calyx of the Chinese lantern plant, also known as Jew’s cherry.

But the physalis has many other names beside Jew’s cherry: Inca berry, Poha berry, Cape gooseberry, Aztec berry, Golden berry, Pineapple ground cherry, Giant ground cherry, Peruvian ground cherry, Peruvian cherry, Husk tomatoes, Pichu berry, Pok Pok, Ras Bhari, Aguaymanto, Uvilla, Uchuva, Physalis and many other names. It is not clear precisely how many others. Some eighty to ninety varieties of physalis occur in North and South America and southern Europe, in the southern parts of the warm and moderate regions.

The origin of the names is also not always clear. For example, more than one story exist about the name ‘Cape gooseberry’. One story tells that Portuguese seafarers brought this plant to South Africa, where the physalis was able to grow and still grows. According to the other story, this has nothing to do with the Cape of Good Hope, but is derived from ‘caped gooseberry’ – a description of the covering around the fruit.

The little-used name Jew’s cherry is thought to hail from the middle ages and to be based on the shape of the lantern surrounding the fruit. It is reminiscent of the shape and colour of the head coverings of Jewish people of that time.

Berrico supplies these unusual, attractive berries under their scientific name of physalis.

The many names of the physalis