Cape Gooseberry
 
 

Cape Gooseberry - Seed

Physalis pruinosa  

Large and very juicy fruit!

Cape gooseberry (Physalis edulis) is a healthy tropical surprise from South and Central America. When ripe the aromatic berries 3-4 cm in size have a deliciously sweet, refreshing flavour. They can be eaten fresh or used to make jams. If you sow indoors at the beginning of May and plant out at the end of May, you can look forward to harvesting as early as August.
 

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Cape gooseberries seed needs no prior treatment but soaking overnight in lukewarm water will encourage germination.

Sowing

Under glass period: from Frbruary to April.

Sow your Cape gooseberries from the beginning of February in an indoor propagator or mini greenhouse, in small peat pots or in a simple seed tray. A combination of peat pots, filled with good seeding compost and a room or mini greenhouse is easiest. Plant 1 seed per pot at 0.5 cm deep, fill with compost and stand in the mini-greenhouse or on a sunny window-sill.

Depending on temperature, germination will take place in 10-20 days. Do harden your seedlings off once they reach 10 cm. Leave the lid off for one hour longer every day for 5 days until they are acclimatised to normal humidity. They can then be potted up into a larger pot.

Keep the pots indoors until all chance of frost is passed and keep them in the light. If they grow too fast, slow things down by standing them in a cooler, bright spot until the outdoor temperature is right.

Spaniards brought Cape gooseberries from the South American Cape Horn.

The plant is one of the deadly nightshades (Solanaceae). It also resembles and is related to the Physalis alkekengi (Chinese Lantern) with its lovely red lanterns but those berries are not edible.

Cape gooseberries grow best in the greenhouse but will be fine outdoors too. Make sure you choose the warmest and most sheltered spot in your garden. This plant will grow tall and fairly bushy. The flower, once pollinated, will form a perfectly round fruit of 2-4 cm in diameter. The best ripe fruits will be those most in the sun. The delicious golden yellow through to an orange fruit has a sweet, refreshing taste with a really nice aroma. They are often used by chefs as a garnish to all sorts of dishes – make sure you eat them as they are just delicious!

Fallen fruit that is not picked up will take seed producing new plants where they have fallen! If you have the room for it, try over wintering them. Stand the plant(s) in the light in a cool (bed)room and water sparingly but keep the soil relatively moist. When all chance of frost is passed, plant them out again. Cut back to 1/3, feed the plant and keep it moist.



Use

Fresh Cape gooseberries are best not kept in the fridge and will keep for several weeks as they do not continue to ripen indoors. If you want to get the last of the fruit to ripen, bring the whole plant indoors at the end of the season.

Cape gooseberries are good for you and contain lots of vitamin C.

Cape gooseberries go with everything... great in salads, tasty in the hand. Kids love them - put some in a packed lunch.

It is usually later in the year before the fruits are on sale in the shops - a small punnet with a few fruits. Home grown are of course so much tastier!

Plant your Cape gooseberries outdoors only when all chance of frost has passed - around mid-May. Do harden them off first - let them acclimatise by standing the seedlings in a shady spot outdoors for 1 hour longer every day for a week. You can then pot them up into a large pot (around 40 cm in diameter), 3 to a pot. They can now be placed in full sun. They will grow bigger and faster in the greenhouse but outdoors is fine as long as they are sheltered and in the sun.

Cape gooseberries can be planted in rows in the garden where it is sheltered but sunny - 70 cm apart. Provide each plant with a support and tie it carefully in, moving up the cane at least once a week. They will grow to 1-1.5 m high.

(Bumble) bees will pollinate the plants from June and the fruits will set easily enough. Try to avoid wetting the plant when watering - only water the soil, giving extra in dry periods. Keep the bed weed-free and the plants will thrive.

Harvesting

Harvest period: July to November.

Ripe fruits give a little when lightly pressed and have a nice yellow through to an orange tint. The green 'lantern' will have dried up by then. Use both hands and a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to pick them - avoid damaging the plant. Fallen fruit is good for a while and can still be eaten.