The cape gooseberry goes by many names, ground cherry and goldenberry being the most common. It is part of the family called physalis, a nightshade relative of the tomato and some other ground-growing berries. Its origins are not well known, though it is native to several places, including Peru, Chile, and South Africa. While grown for its fruitful harvest, in most native places, it also grows wild.
Cape gooseberries have leaves that look like hearts and flowers that look like bells, which form a “bladder” over the fruit as it develops. Once matured, the fruit forms a straw-like husk. The shrub grows to a meter in height but if well maintained can reach two meters.
The cape gooseberry is an excellent source of vitamins and is a good source of energy, protein, and phosphorus. It is also rich in polyphenols and carotenoids. The cape gooseberry can be grown in almost any environment and is an easy plant to care for.
Its typical season differs by region: In the south, fruit develops from summer to the next spring, and in central areas, it grows from spring to summer and will bear fruit. In northern areas, fruit will yield from late summer until the first frost. It can handle cold temperatures but is not susceptible to heat, though it may grow some mildew in high moisture climates. The perfect climate for the goldenberry is a moderate temperature.
How to Plant Cape Gooseberry
The cape gooseberry is an annual. To yield the most fruit, it is best planted in a low-fertility soil, as in high-fertility soil it will most likely yield useless vegetation. It is adaptable to most soil types and will grow almost anywhere, although it does best in sand or gravel. Cape Gooseberry especially thrives in the sun, in fields, ditches, or among other crops. If you live in a colder region, however, the cape gooseberry will need some protection from frost. Planting them next to a building or a wall will be enough. You can also use plastic row covers. Plant the seeds once, and they will take care of themselves. Cape gooseberry thrives on neglect.
How to Care for Cape Gooseberry
The cape gooseberry is easy to care for. In fact, it doesn’t need much care at all. The plant does need about 800 milliliters of water daily, and excess water is not good for it. Pruning is not required until after the first harvest. Apart from that, there is not much to do to care for this plant. All you need to do is water it, and cape gooseberry will grow on its own.
How to Harvest Cape Gooseberry
The goldenberry has many harvests in a season. Flowering can last up to 75 days after seeding, and the first harvest usually occurs up to 100 days after that. It takes months for the fruit to ripen. When it does, it will produce fruit for up to three years, but after the first year, the fruit is usually smaller. Some fruit will fall to the ground, and if still in the husk, it will remain edible up to several days.
Pests and Diseases
Usually, bugs are not an issue until the goldenberry grows large. In certain areas, if well maintained, pests are not an issue. Birds do consume the fruit, however. If planted in a high-moisture climate, mildew may form on the fruit. This can also happen with excessive rainfall. This plant can sometimes fall victim to tobacco mosaic virus, giving its leaves distinct bacterial leaf spots.
Varieties of Cape Gooseberry
There are five varieties of this plant. The giallo rosso has fruit that is best eaten raw. And if grown in an area with a mild winter, it will last several years. The giant gets its name because it can grow up to five feet and has large and delicious-tasting fruit, though it requires more time to grow. The giant poha berry has fruit that grows an inch in diameter. Its leaves are different from the other plants of the same family and are fuzzy and grayish in color.
The golden berry has fruit that can grow to two inches in diameter. The pulp of the fruit is also much sweeter and full of flavor. It is resistant to frost, unlike the other varieties. However, it does take a year and a half to bear fruit. The long aston is actually a selection of golden berry. It has a rich golden color, unlike other types.
Unfortunately, few people grow cape gooseberry for commercial farming. This might be because the fruit would be hard to ship—but it is perfect as a local farming crop. In its native homes, it is common to see cape gooseberry grown in such a way. The plant has many uses, jams being one of the best, and for centuries, people have used it as a diuretic and also as an antiasthmatic treatment. In South Africa, they grind the leaves into medicine for inflammation. In Australia, they use the leaves for enemas for abdominal relief in children. Cape gooseberries have medicinal as well as nutritional value.
Alexandria Harkins is a writer with a passion for literature. Born and raised in Georgia, she now raises her own family in the beautiful blue ridges of the state. With a passion for the earth and all things natural, she hopes to one day assume the family green thumb. For now she studies all things botanical so that she can gain knowledge to start her own herb garden.