Monday, 5 April 2021

Cape Gooseberry - grow your own!

Last year, when visiting a friend for tea and buns, I was presented with a bowl of strange round yellowy things, which I thought were Mirabel plums.

But no! They were what is called Cape Gooseberry, proper name Physalis peruviana.

This is closely related to, but quite different from, Chinese Lanterns, which many of us grow in our gardens - those are Physalis alkekengi, which is just such a great name, isn't it? Al-key-kengy. They're the ones with the dark orange papery "lanterns", hang on, I'll find you a  photo - 

There you go, not one of my plants, photo stolen from the internet.

So, we have a garden, ornamental species of Physalis: and we have an edible species.

I decided to try growing the edible species: one of my Clients has a greenhouse, and they very kindly allow me to grow my own choice of plants, so instead of going for the usual cucumber and peppers, I installed a grow-bag full of Physalis peruviana.

They were super-easy to propagate: just take a left-over fruit from the supermarket pack, the more over-ripe the better: squish out the seeds, dry them on kitchen towel, then sow them.


Here they are, newly planted out in the grow-bag collars: if you don't already use these on your grow-bags, I would definitely recommend getting some.

All you do is press them into the top of grow-bag, once it's in situ: then cut around the mark they make, and slip them inside. Three of them fit neatly into one grow-bag, as you can see.

Then you can - if you wish - add some extra compost to the central section, and then put in your plants.

To water, you fill the outside ring, and the water seeps slowly into the bag: this allows you to get more water in, without it running all over the floor of the greenhouse, and without it washing the compost out.

Clever, huh?!

In my photo, you can see that I have irrigation in place, but I still feed the plants every week with liquid feed, so that goes into the collar, and therefore none of it is wasted in spillage or seepage.

Here they are by the end of summer: fantastic growth, lots of flowers,

I made a simple support framework of canes, just as you do for tomatoes, and I kept them tied in neatly: partly for support, but more to stop them taking over the entire greenhouse!

They grow quite vigorously, and seem to be very happy in an unheated greenhouse.

And after the flowers - we had......

Fanfare of trumpets! Fruit!

And yes, they were not only edible, but were actually just as nice as the ones from the shop.

So - the moral of this story is: if you like eating Cape Gooseberry, and you either have a greenhouse, or know someone who has one... then there is plenty of time (it's only April, after all!) to get some started for this year.

So why not have a go? In autumn, let me know how it went!




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