Best Way to Grow Cape Gooseberries


Physalis peruviana makes a useful addition to the very limited number of half-hardy fruit crops, since it is easy to grow, either annually from seed or as a greenhouse perennial to be cut down each autumn. In appearance, the fruits resemble small orange cherries, encased in a papery calyx that betrays the plant’s relationship to the ornamental Chinese lantern.



There are several closely related edible species of Physalis, all from warm parts of the New World. They are often confused with each other and have common names that seem to be almost interchangeable. The true Cape gooseberry is a tender perennial, while the commonest of the others is an annual, Physalis pubescens, most usually called the strawberry tomato. But to confuse matters, Physalis pubescens is also sometimes called the ground cherry, as are at least four other species, including, on occasion, Physalis peruviana. At least two others are known as jam berries, at least two more are called tomatillos and two more are known as husk tomatoes. To add final confusion, there are both orange- and purple-fruited forms within some of the species. They were, no doubt, all eaten by native American peoples and Physalis peruviana has been grown in Europe since the late-eighteenth century.



If you can grow bush tomatoes, then you can grow Cape gooseberries. In a greenhouse, they can be cultivated in growing bags or by ring culture, but are probably most easily grown in 20cm (8in) diameter pots of soil-based John Innes No. 2 potting compost. Outdoors, they should be grown in well prepared beds into which compost or well rotted manure has been dug in advance. Rake in a general balanced fertilizer about one week before planting. It makes sense to place tall cloches over the plants in the early stages.

Sow two seeds to each 9cm (1/2in) pot of soil-based sowing compost in warmth and pull out the weaker if both germinate. Sow about six weeks before you wish to plant; outdoors, you can plant immediately after the risk of the last frost has passed. In a greenhouse maintained at a minimum temperature of about 7°C (45°F), you should be able to plant some four to six weeks earlier. After transplanting, insert a stout cane close to each plant and tie them in as they grow. Pinch out the growing tip when the plants reach about 45cm (18in) in height to encourage bushiness. There is no need to remove side-shoots.



Don’t allow the compost to dry out, and give a proprietary liquid tomato fertilizer to greenhouse plants once a week after the first fruit have set, following the manufacturer’s recommendations as given for tomatoes. Outdoor plants should be fed once every two weeks at the most.


freshly picked cape gooseberries displaying the protective calyxHARVESTING AND STORING

Cape gooseberries are ripe when the calyx becomes very papery and the fruit inside is richly coloured. They will keep for several weeks after picking and may then be eaten fresh, simply by peeling back the calyx, or, as I have already suggested, made into delicious jam.



Whiteflies and aphids may be troublesome, especially in greenhouses.


Cape Gooseberry varieties

Although a number of named varieties exist in North America, I haven’t seen these offered in Europe where some nondescript name such as ‘GOLDEN BERRY’ tends to be attached to the seed companies’ selections.

17. May 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit & Veg, Soft Fruit | Tags: | Comments Off on Best Way to Grow Cape Gooseberries


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