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Cape Gooseberries

Written by Carolyn on March 2nd, 2012.      19 comments

 

This year I have grown a Cape Gooseberry plant for the first time.  They may not be the most compact or beautiful plant to grow in the garden, in fact my plant is sprawling out all over the place and taking up a lot of room, but I am letting it have that corner of the garden for sentimental as well as practical reasons.

 

When I was young (all those years ago!), my father grew Cape Gooseberries and I remember him showing me how to peel the little paper cases away to find the golden fruit inside.  I just loved them and from then on I was often out in the garden picking them.   Last year I saw a plant for sale and bought it for my father for Father's Day.  When I turned up with it he thanked me very nicely and then later when he sheepishly showed me round his garden, I realised I had bought coals to Newcastle, because he had one whole raised garden bed completely full of huge Cape Gooseberry plants, all self-sown from the previous year.  We enjoyed picking and eating them together just like we used to!  When talking to Jen (another Kings Seeds staff member), she remembers picking them from plants growing at the side of the road, and this year she also has one in her garden.  It is definitely a plant that brings back childhood memories for both of us.  Since gardening is more than just a practical pursuit for me, I think this is a good enough reason to grow something in the garden.  Apart from this, cape gooseberries are easy to grow, delicious, and very rarely available for purchase, which are all good reasons to give growing them a try. 

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana var. edulis) is a herbaceous perennial which grows wild in the Andes and was originally discovered and named in Peru.  

Physalis is genus of plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), and is therefore related to the tomato, tomatillo and ground cherry. 

Some say that its common name, Cape Gooseberry, originated in Australia when it was introduced there from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, others say that the "cape" refers to the husk around the fruit.  The Cape gooseberry, contained within a papery Chinese lantern,  is distinctly tomato-like in shape and it is about the size of a cherry tomato.   It is easy to see the relationship to the tomatillo, with its similar papery husk.

 

The Cape Gooseberry is very easy to grow.  It is best to sow the seeds in Spring - the best months for sowing them here in New Zealand are from August through to December.  Space plants 50-60cm apart.  The straggling bush grows up to one metre tall and may benefit from some support.  Fruit will be ready for harvest around 100 days from sowing.  

 

I love the way the little covers on the fruit turn papery when the fruit is ripe.  The fruit is yellow-orange when ripe, but I often pick them when they are a little under-ripe, partly through impatience and partly because I like the tart flavour of the under-ripe fruit.  They are a lot sweeter if you can wait a little longer until they are fully ripe, and are delicious eaten straight from the bush, while standing in the garden.  If you can manage to get them inside, they can apparently be added to salads and cooked dishes.  Because they are high in pectin, they are are a great addition to jams and jellies.    I have to admit at this point that NEVER YET have any cape gooseberries made it as far as the kitchen at our house!   

 

If you do happen to have a glut of cape gooseberries, they can be dried as a delicious snack or cooked with apples and ginger for a delicious pie filling.  They are full of vitamins A, B and C, as well as being high in protein and rich in iron. 
I found a wonderful recipe for cape gooseberry jam, complete with great pictures, on Alessandra Zecchini's blog - you can visit it by clicking here.  
 
 

And for those of you who would like a recipe for a delicious cape gooseberry tarte tatin, you can click here

 

I know I can't be the only one who loves Cape Gooseberries!  How many of you grow them?? 

 

19 Comments

Rachael says ...
I bought 4 cape gooseberry bushes as young plants, and planted them in four separate locations on my 1/2 acre. The one that has done best is in the strip of garden directly under my kitchen window. It gets fed bits and pieces throughout the year that for one reason or another don't make it down to the compost heap; coffee grounds, etc. It seems to fruit all year round (I live in Northland, NZ), though the fruit wouldn't ripen properly in winter. It has an abundance of fruit. Even the husks are delightful. A friend of mine had sewn a bead into each husk and gently sewed or glued the husk closed and strung them on a cotton thread to look like fairy lights!

The one that only gets 1/4 day sun in the front garden is still very small and struggling 2 years on. The one in the rose garden that gets as much sun as my spoilt kitchen buddy is a reasonable size and has a 'pick at the bush' amount of fruit on it, not enough for a feast. It's berries don't tend to be as sweet. The fourth bush didn't survive. Was down in the vege patch where some wild growing lemon balm choked it out.
Adele says ...
OH My Gosh, Have you tried Alessandra chocolate covered Cape Gooseberry? Pure Heaven. I struggled to get a few from the garden into the house because I munch my way through them as fast as they fall but I was spurred on by my addiction to chocolate. So I made it! SOOOO worth it! Divine. I moved from Turkey to Wales and then New Zealand where I have a hectare of garden with wild growing Cape Gooseberries that I had never seen or eaten. Now, I have my favourite Kiwi fruit above the Cape Gooseberries and my homeland cherry trees and grape vines filling up the walled garden. My taste buds love me.
Richard says ...
Hi there, have 2 flourishing plants I planted in Rotorua this year so that my kids could experience something from my childhood ....

fruiting abundantly in Pots which is great, but I am struggling to find information as to whether they just last one season and die off ?? or are a plant that lasts through winter and takes off again in spring ?

I remember finding the berries in the same place in the garden every year but can't say I ever noticed the bush in between times other than maybe as a dead looking stick ....

Be interested to know

Thanks
Richard
www.twinlake.co.nz

Louis says ...
I have found a random plant in my garden and it has fruits now at the end of winter so I'm quite surprised by some of the comments here saying it can't survive a frost when the plant in my garden is flourishing with an abundance of gooseberries. Yum yum
ShilohN says ...
I feared as much. Thank you for taking the time to answer!
Barbara from Kings Seeds says ...
I'm afraid Cape Gooseberry is a tender plant and as such will not survive a frost. Save some fruit though as it grows very easily from seed.
ShilohN says ...
Hello! I live in Alberta, Canada. I grew a cape gooseberry plant from a mouldy fruit that I purchased and it is currently taking over one area of my countertop. Can you tell me: will it survive a frozen winter? I am considering planting it in my yard but would hate to lose the plant to the frost. I am so fond of this fruit and I am greatly looking forward to enjoying it from the garden!
Teresa K says ...
I had forgotten about this fruit. Mum had one in the garden at Rotowaro when we were kids. So many memories. Our local nursery in Te Aroha had punnets with 6 seedlings in. So I've brought them home to plant a gooseberry patch. Can't wait.
HappyMama says ...
Mine grew so prolifically they spread two metres onto the drive, others have come up through cracks in the drive. They are a weed here. I'm about to make jam, the last harvest for this season as I cut them back today to reclaim the back door steps! I suggest training them along wires.
South Africa says ...
We are Cape Gooseberry farmers in South Africa.
They're related to the tomato and grow in full sun. We plant, nuture, pick and pack into punnets for fresh produce markets and the lesser graded berries are made into jam, bottled and sold. There is literally no waste of the product. They require trimming during the off season into a neat small bush which branches out and produces in season. Although the wind bashes them about, they do recover and are not easily broken. If they are over watered, the fruit will swell and crack. The fruit will drop when not ready if they are not given enough water and nutrients. They're quite fussy regarding water and there's a fine line between over and under watering. ENJOY !!
Ibrahim Moosbally says ...
Great:
This nut is fantastic un taste, flavour and looks. I am in Liverpool, UK, and I have an allotment where I have dedicated 55 square feet to these great plants. I must have at least 40 plants, most of them flowering and fruiting.
I am patiently waiting for 15 September when they will be ready for picking. Can't wait!
By the way I grew these out of seeds from 1 fruit last year. Success!!!
hazel says ...
love them to. enjoyed the photo .very well done. I love introducing them to new people as the first taste is unusual
Alessandra says ...
Thank you for mentioning the Cape gooseberry jam, another great way tho have them (very popular in Italy where Cape gooseberries tend to be quite expensive to buy) is to cover them with dark chocolate

Ciao
Alessandra
Robinne says ...
Well, they may be killed by the frost, but the cape gooseberries I planted this year (for the first time) grew great, in spite of being thrown into the worst soil in the garden and being forgotten and unwatered all summer. Thrives in drought conditions--what more can you ask for from a food plant in Canterbury!
Kelly says ...
Hello,
I love cape gooseberries - there is something magical about peeling back that paper with the crinkly sound and discovering the treasure inside!
I first discovered them when I was a child, growing wild in our shelter belt around my parents orchard, in more recent times I decided to save some seed and grow them in my garden (good thing I did as the required pest killing weed spray in the shelter soon took care of my discovered cape gooseberry plants!). This year I have this year taken quite a large yield off my sprawling plants that I have scattered through my garden. I made jam (there is a good simple one in Edmonds Cookbook) and it is absolutely delish. I think I will get three harvests off one particular plant as it is really laden! (So thanks for the recipe ideas!)
I think they can be quite prolific self-seeders, so I look forward to the discovery of many more plants next year to transplant to other nooks and crannies!
Deborah says ...
I often find that the capes drop off the plant before the fruit is properly ripe - can you tell me what might be causing this? Thanks!
Carolyn, Kings Seeds says ...
Hi Carol...The cape gooseberry is an annual in at temperate regions and a perennial in the tropics. They will need protection from frost, either by covering them or if in pots moving them to a protected position as you have done....Hope they make it, Carol!
Carol says ...
I planted Capes this year for my husband. They are in pots, (just as well) our summer has been pathetic. I am hoping they will carry on, on the verandah over winter! Last night we reached 3 dgrees and there was snow on the mountains. I am in Coalgate, will my capes survive winter with protection?
Jane says ...
We have grown cape gooseberries for the first time from King`s seed this summer. They are doing reasonably well but think they needed a more open & sunny spot. The fruit will definitely not get inside the house! In fact I will probably be the only one who notices when they are ripe. I too have lovely childhood memories of picking them from my grandmothers garden . I remember the fruit being very yellow and warmed from the sun. We have grown tomatillo’s from seed this year also. They also have a paper case , taste a little similar, but are more savoury. They are larger & green when ripe. They are sprawling bushes & easily damaged by wind, but worth a try!