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May 18, 2011 06:56 AM

Can you substitute physalis (cape gooseberry) for tomatillos?

Has anyone ever tried to substitute physalis (I see on Wikipedia they are also called cape gooseberry but I have always known them as physalis) for tomatillos in a recipe? What is interesting is that, again according to wikipedia, tomatillos are in the same family.

I love tomatillo salsa but as they are not available where I live I have long gone without. I am keen to give this a try, but before I concoct my own recipe thought I would see if anyone else has given it a go.

I have often used physalis to make chutneys for my foie gras and like the tart and sweetness they provide, so I am hopeful that this could be a new discovery and that shoulders of pork simmered in a physalis salsa are in my future...

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  1. I don't what a tomatillo is but as you've eaten both you know how close they resemble each other so should be able to judge if it'd work as a substitute. Presumably, if it has the same sweet/sharp then it will.

    1. Why not? The tomatillo and cape gooseberry are of the same genus, but are different species. Just make sure that the gooseberry is ripe. If the gooseberry has the same characteristic as the tomatillo, they will taste terrible in the unripe condition.

      1. Sounds like the Cape Goose berry is much sweeter that a Tomatillo. Are the Cape Gooseberries very astringent when under ripe? As you know with Tomatillo salsa the fruit provides the acid with little to no sweet.

        1. Ripe cape gooseberries are sweeter/more acidic than tomatillos; tomatillos have a decently high level of acidity without the sweet, depending on the variety. I have eaten both but never subbed one for the other in a recipe. My thought is that, since you're thinking of using the gooseberry for pork, I bet it'll be tasty. If the sweeter aspect of the ripe gooseberry is to your liking, I'd go for it.

          A reasonable substitute for tomatillos, if they're difficult to find, are green tomatoes dressed with a little acid, preferably lemon.

          Let us know how this comes out. Tomatillos are readily available in my area, but I don't see gooseberries often, especially cape. My sister in MA grows them, but up until a few years ago, thought she they were just ornamental plants. If you have a moment, could you share your chutney recipe? TIA.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Thanks bushwickgirl for your response. I actually tried green tomatoes once as a replacement and it did not really fit the bill - and gave me a stomach ache to boot. (which I should have known would happen as fried green tomatoes always gave me stomach aches as a kid - but I really loved them and would always try them again anyway! Lucky for me, people here have no idea what they are so they never crop up and tempt me anymore.)

            As soon as the cape gooseberries (physalis in my world) are ripe I am going to see if I can replicate a decent tomatillo-style salsa out of them. Watch this space...

            My chutney recipe is really very simple - and pretty much changes every time I make it (some times I add fresh cranberries or toss in a few sliced kumquats or a combination of all three)

            For my chutney recipe I finely chop 2 large shallots and sauté them in a bit of light oil until soft. I then add around 2 cups of cape gooseberries, a good splash of fresh orange juice, around 1/3 cup sugar (sometimes more will be needed if too tart), 2 - 3 tablespoons of cider or rice wine vinegar and if I am not using kumquats I might add a small bit of finely grated orange zest. Pinch of salt and maybe a bit of cardamom or ginger if the mood strikes me. Cook until the gooseberries pop and the chutney thickens - about 10 mins.

            I serve this with foie gras and warm pain d'epices. It is a very nice combination and goes down oh so well with a chilled Monbazillac or champagne.

            1. re: marsprincess

              Oh, thanks so much, sounds great and easy enough. I'm going to pass this on to my sister. Hopefully she'll save me some for my visit, I'll bring the champagne.

              I'll be watching for your results.