Physalis peruviana is closely related to the tomatillo and to the Chinese lantern, also members of the genus Physalis. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, potato and other members of the nightshades. Despite its name, it is not closely related to any of the cherry, Ribes gooseberry, Indian gooseberry, or Chinese gooseberry.
The fruit is a smooth berry, resembling a miniature, spherical, yellow tomato. Removed from its bladder-like calyx, it is about the size of a marble, about 1–2 cm in diameter. Like a tomato, it contains numerous small seeds. It is bright yellow to orange in color, and it is sweet when ripe, with a characteristic, mildly tart flavor, making it ideal for snacks, pies, or jams. It is relished in salads and fruit salads, sometimes combined with avocado. Also, because of the fruit’s decorative appearance, it is popular in restaurants as an exotic garnish for desserts.
A prominent feature is the inflated, papery calyx enclosing each berry. The calyx is accrescent until the fruit is fully grown; at first it is of normal size, but after the petals fall it continues to grow until it forms a protective cover around the growing fruit. If the fruit is left inside the intact calyx husks, its shelf life at room temperature is about 30–45 days.
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