The cape gooseberry fruit is quite delicious when fully matured and with care is well worth planting in the home garden.
Growth habits and planting needs
This unusual plant has a fruit that is a golden berry is inside a papery “cape”. The Cape Goosberry is native to Brazil but will grow well in sunny Sydney.
It is the size of a cherry tomato with a sharp taste that is delicious to eat straight from the plant or in salads.
It can also be used to make gooseberry jam.
The plant is a soft annual in temperate Sydney and grows to about about 1m tall with soft, velvety heart shaped leaves with a lovely bell shaped yellow flower and has lantern shaped fruit that hang along the stem.
They prefer an open sunny position that is protected from winds.
The plant can grow in sandy soils but it needs consistent water to produce a good crop of fruit. It does not like wet feet and does well in raised garden beds. It is usually planted from seed but can also be grown from cuttings. The seeds need to be kept moist to germinate properly.
The Cape Gooseberry is a plant that can thrive on neglect as far as fertilizing is concerned and adding fertilizer will cause leafy growth at the expense of fruit. This being the case they should follow nitrogen hungry plants in the crop rotation cycle, like the leaf vegetables that will deplete nitrogen from the soil.
Some staking will be needed for its rambling growth habit. If planted closely the plants will support each other. Usually the plants need about 50 cm spacing to allow for adequate growth.
As each fruit can contain numerous seeds it is important to keep an eye on it and to collect the fruit at maturity so that it can be controlled from easy self sowing. It can be a weed in some areas and the birds can spread the seeds into bush areas. If you grow this plant be mindful of its capacity to be easily spread.
The Cape Gooseberry takes 14-16 weeks to grow to maturity. The papery cases will become transparent and the cherry a deep golden yellow.
You can open the “cape” in four sections like a star and use this to decorate your deserts. It needs to be fully mature for the best flavour.
Eat them straight from the garden, add to salads, use hem to decorate desserts, stew them or just make some jam, you will enjoy this tasty fruit.