The first time we saw a Cape gooseberry, it was on someone's blog, and it looked like a perfect yellow egg yolk encased in paper leaves. We really thought someone took a photo of an egg yolk. It wasn't, of course - it was a Cape gooseberry. Cape gooseberries are native to South America, and they're closely related to the tomatilla - which makes sense, since they look like tiny tomatillas, swaddled in tissue leaves. We were surprised how small they are, though - click through for a photo of one up close.
We still hadn't seen any in person until last week, at the market. We're ever on the lookout for new and exciting fruits and vegetables, and our shopping companion was slightly nonplussed by how enthusiastic we were over these little berries. The Cape gooseberry, or ground-cherry, is most widely cultivated in South Africa and Australia and New Zealand, where it's commonly made into jams and pies. They make beautiful garnishes. The papery covering can be peeled back into tissue-thin flower petals that stand out around the berry like a crown. We love them as a fall garnish especially; the pod looks like fall leaves.
If you find Cape gooseberries, choose good-sized berries. They should be about the size of a marble or large pea. Smaller ones may be shriveled. They should look golden through the papery covering, and firm. And their taste? They are not very sweet; they have a ripe, earthy taste that does indeed remind us just a little of a tomato. They are full of tiny seeds that are barely noticeable. They are different, with a richer, more mellow flavor than most grapes and berries.