Physalis or Peruvian coqueret is a plant that offers cute, perfectly edible fruits.
Physalis basics in a few words
Name – Physalis alkekengi
Family – Solanaceae or nightshade
Type – perennial
Height – 20 to 32 inches (50 to 80 cm)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – well-drained
Flowering – May to July
Harvest – August, September, October
Caring for physalis is easy and the medicinal properties of its berries are famed the world over.
Planting and sowing physalis
Physalis is planted indifferently in fall or in spring.
- If your region is known for the cold of its winter, best plant in spring.
- Physalis loves growing in full sun but not if it’s too warm.
You can find physalis planted in shrub or flower beds, in pots and also in the vegetable patch.
If you wish to sow, we suggest covered sowing at the very beginning of spring.
- To trigger sprouting, keep your seed bed or tray at a temperature of about 65°F (18°C).
- Germination is very slow and can last several weeks.
- Transfer to the growing bed 6 to 8 weeks later, after any risk of freezing has disappeared.
It’s possible to divide the clump in spring or sow seeds at the same time (see sowing physalis above).
Caring for physalis
Once properly settled in, physalis requires little care.
It is preferable to only water in case of extreme heat waves or prolonged dry spells.
Adding tomato plant fertilizer with the same doses as might be written on the packaging will enhance your physalis’ growth.
- Rejoice if weeds such as nettle or horsetail are abundant: pull them out and make fermented fertilizer tea with them!
At the end of the growing season, to speed fruit ripening, it’s possible to pinch the head off stems to focus all the sap on the fruits.
Insects and diseases that infect Physalis
Although it isn’t often visited by parasites and diseases, physalis might occasionally show signs of:
- Aphids – leaves lose their original color and curl themselves into tube shapes
- Whiteflies – white insects appear
- Rust – brown or tan blisters on the underside of leaves and yellow spots on the topside
Physalis also serves as a host for Septoria, even though the plant itself isn’t often infected by it. This can then hop over to tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant to infect them.
Physalis can be harvested as early as July for the earlier cultivars in the warmest regions, and from September to October elsewhere and for later varieties.
The harvest can indeed last until October and even November in regions where the climate isn’t as favorable. Physalis plants won’t survive the first frost spells.
- Consequently, don’t wait for the first frosts, because you might lose everything that’s left of the harvest.
- Wait for the fruits to be very ripe before eating them, because if not, they’re going to leave an acidic taste in your mouth.
Whether the variety is a red, orange yellow or green-hulled variety, you can be sure they’re ripe when the hull turns purple and then brown. It will start to open up when the fruits are ready for harvest.
Main physalis cultivars
Peruvian coqueret or Peruvian physalis
- Hull – the berry that is as large as a golden-colored cherry is protected in a dry calyx.
- Productivity – Harvest starts in August, up until the first frost spells.
- Hull – it looks exactly like the Peruvian coqueret, except that the size of the berry is smaller.
- Productivity – This is the earliest physalis variety and can be harvested at the end of July.
Mexican physalis or Tomatillo
- Hull – the calyx that protects the fruit is a delicate violet color with veins of green.
- Productivity – This very popular Mexican fruit thrives under its warm sun and can be harvested starting in August.
Learn more about physalis
The name comes from the Greek root word physalis which means bladder, due to the resemblance of the calyx to that organ.
It has been given an incredible number of names depending on the region and the variety, such as winter cherry, Cape gooseberry, Peruvian coqueret, Chinese lantern or even the romantic name amour-en-cage (“caged love”).
Physalis health benefits and therapeutic value:
Physalis contains high levels of vitamins A, B and especially C, it is also a surprisingly rich source of beta-carotene when fully ripe.
Note that the therapeutic benefits of physalis include treatment of urinary tract infections and rheumatism.
Note that the most used common names for physalis are ground cherry, Chinese lantern and Japanese lantern (hōzuki in Japanese).
Sometimes, when sold without the hull, Physalis is confused with cherry tomato.
Smart tip about physalis
Fertilizer will help if your soil is poor and you wish to maximize the harvest.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Physalis plant and fruit by Andreas Lischka under Pixabay license
Physalis hidden treasure by Doreen Sawitza under Pixabay license