Physalis: Another Weird Fruit in China

One of the things I love about living in China is that I just keep on discovering bizarre things. I thought I had already seen pretty much all the “alien” fruits China had to offer, and then recently a co-worker brought some “姑娘” back from China’s northeast. Apparently these are called physalis in English. (How did I miss them all this time??) Anyway, bizarre, and kinda good!

From Wikipedia on physalis:

> The typical Physalis fruit is similar to a firm tomato (in texture), and like strawberries or other fruit in flavor; they have a mild, refreshing acidity. The flavor of the Cape Gooseberry (P. peruviana) is a unique tomato/pineapple-like blend. Physalis fruit have around 53 kcal for 100 grams[2] , and are rich in cryptoxanthin.

Here are some photos from Flickr, all taken by their respective owners:

Unfortunately, none of the photos I was able to find on Flickr included a picture of what the inside of the fruit looks like. I attempted a photo at night with my iPhone, and it didn’t turn out great, but you get the basic idea:


The seeds kind of reminded me of green pepper seeds, but smaller. Here’s a Chinese article with more pictures and info in Chinese.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John.

    Here in Japan, we usually dont eat them.

    Images of the fruite in japan

    Chinese 姑娘 is better than japanese kanji 鬼灯、酸漿

    We use Physalis as religious offerings

  2. Huh, those grow in China? Cool, we always knew them as Chilean gooseberries. Thanks for giving the Chinese name.

  3. So what did YOU think they tasted like?

  4. In french, this fruits could be called “amours en cage” (loves in a cage).

  5. Mel Drake Says: August 17, 2009 at 1:15 am

    We use them at my work. They do taste a little like a strawberry mixed with a gooseberry (the green english sort no one generally eats outside of England it seems) and have a texture like an under-ripe cherry tomato. We use them to decorate deserts and will sometimes dip them in sugar or chocolate. I’ve heard them called “Lanternfruit” or “Paperfruit” as well

  6. You can find those in the US at some farmers markets. They are tasty, but not economical to eat in large quantities. They look like a small tomatillo.

  7. We have them here in Boca Raton, FL…

  8. I think you can get those in the US. I like them, I think they’re pretty good. Also most people in the north pronounce it something a long the line of “姑鸟“, at least that’s what my mom’s family says in Jilin.

  9. Here in Vancouver, I’ve only heard them called “tomatillo”.

  10. Here in Belgium these can be found in supermarkets too. They are more sour than sweet, I like them but they’re a bit expensive.

  11. Hey John,

    Just when you think you know China pretty well and BAM!, yet another new discovery…it’s stories like these that make me miss it badly.

    RE the fruit though, we have that in Lebanon and you can find it in some places in Europe too – have you tried it yet? What do you think of the taste?

  12. In Mexico we call them “Tomatillos” which means small tomato. They are used to make a special kind of green salsa that goes well with cow tongue tacos (that’s right, tongue). They’re seasonal in California and one of my summer chores was to peel hundreds of them so that my mother could freeze them for winter consumption.

  13. Cool that so many of you are already familiar with these… I feel left out of the party. 🙁 I’ve never seen these for sale in Shanghai, either.

  14. Dan and Daniel,

    Yes, I tried them. I guess they taste sort of like a “fruitier” tomato, but the harder seeds reminded me a little bit of a green pepper. Something resembling kiwifruit in there too… It’s hard to describe!

  15. heilong79 Says: August 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Yeah they have them in Tesco in Ireland, its easy to remember the name, just think of ‘Young Girl’ in Chinese and you have got it.

  16. 东北虎 Says: August 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm


  17. I have just been introduced to this fruit by my mom and I am sold. Quite an interesting taste

  18. YOu can buy the small “plug plants” of physalis from They can be grown outdoors in the UK but need protectioin from winter frosts.
    They are delicious when you peel back the outer casing and dip half the fruit in chocolate.

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