Cape Gooseberries (Physalis peruviana) comes originally from South America as you might guess from its botanical name but it grows extremely well in Ventnor. It is related to the tomato, potato, and other members of the nightshade family and closely related to the tomatillo but not to the gooseberry or Chinese gooseberry.
Also known as ‘Incan Berries’, the latest ‘superfood’, they contain vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, B12 and are high in phosphorous. They also contain 16% protein which is very high for a fruit.
The fruit is a small round berry, about the size of a marble, full of small seeds. It is bright yellow when ripe, and very sweet, making it ideal for adding to fruit salads, pies and jam making. Each berry is covered in a papery pod, if this is left on they will keep for 30 -45 days at room temperature, possibly longer.
It requires well drained soil of any type and will grow in poor soil too. Grow in partially shade or full sun. If the soil is too rich you will get loads of leaves and not so much fruit, so go easy on the feeding and manure.
It is not very cold hardy in this country but can be grown as a herbaceous perennial in milder areas or at the base of a sunny wall, in other words it will look as though it has died in the winter but will regrow in the spring. In colder areas you will have to plant new seeds every year indoors or a greenhouse in April/May.
It is a bushy plant that will reach 1 – 1½ metres tall. It is a good idea to pinch out the top growing shoot to encourage lots of side stems that will all bear fruit when it gets to about 30cms tall. It has beautiful flowers and does make an attractive addition to the garden.
I am having a go at growing two of these for the first time this year, I am going to put one in the ground and one in a pot so I can see how well they grow in containers.