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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Sprachkultur/Language culture‹  ›EN‹   –  17.08.2013

Love in a cage

Botanical names may be hard to wrap your tongue around, but it does make communication regarding the identification of plant species more precise. On the other hand, you might be missing out on some pretty neat local names for plants.

physalis fruitOne of the things doing very well in my garden this year is Physalis peruviana, a robust, bushy annual belonging to the nightshade family. It blooms profusely with tiny, yellow flowers and produces hundreds of small, delicious fruit. The yellow berries are about the size of a cherry tomato and come wrapped in their own papery husk – a sweet surprise, waiting to be discovered.

Hence the English common name, husk cherry. It is closely related to the Chinese lantern, its ornamental sibling that advertises its (inedible) fruit in bright orange papery lanterns each fall.

Physalis is also known as ground cherry, a very apt name, given its habit of growing close to the ground. Cape gooseberry is yet another common name variant. Supposedly, they grew well around the Cape of Good Hope after being introduced by the Portuguese, which explains that part, but the origin of the rest has so far evaded me, as I see no resemblance to an actual gooseberry.

In German, this delectable fruit is also known as “Andenbeere”, referring to its New World origin, as well as “Blasenkirsche” (bubble cherry). But when shopping for it around the markets, you mostly will find it advertised simply as Physalis.

So many names for one tasty little morsel. Yet the French have once more proven the most poetic in the big Physalis naming contest: they simply call it amour en cage. What could better describe that sweet sensation of popping a ripe husk cherry into your mouth - after carefully unwrapping it first, of course!