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I like them for five reasons:

1. They match my walls.

2. The dried version is so tangy-sweet that it is a total health party in my mouth.

3. They kind of look like shriveled testicles.

4. They are an amazing super-powered super fruit.

5. They’re like exotic raisins.

Let’s focus on number 3 for a minute here. Now this is not a totally random association. See, I love the way these taste when they are dried. They are a whole other mouthful when fresh. I promise you, I was not the first to make this association, I won’t be the last and because this is Making Love In The Kitchen, I am going to go there: fresh gooseberries taste like spooge… uh… or so I’ve been told.


The first time we saw a Cape gooseberry, it was on someone’s blog, and it looked like a perfect yellow egg yolk encased in paper leaves. We really thought someone took a photo of an egg yolk. It wasn’t, of course.

Cape gooseberries are native to South America, and they’re closely related to the tomatilla – which makes sense, since they look like tiny tomatillas, swaddled in tissue leaves. We were surprised how small they are.

We still hadn’t seen any in person until last week, at the market. We’re ever on the lookout for new and exciting fruits and vegetables, and our shopping companion was slightly nonplussed by how enthusiastic we were over these little berries.

The Cape gooseberry, or ground-cherry, is most widely cultivated in South Africa and Australia and New Zealand, where it’s commonly made into jams and pies. They make beautiful garnishes. The papery covering can be peeled back into tissue-thin flower petals that stand out around the berry like a crown. We love them as a fall garnish especially; the pod looks like fall leaves.


Small shrub similar to the common tomato, can be grown as an annual or perennial. Plants are usually small, only 1-3ft in height.
Plants enjoy full sun, fairly warm (but not hot) temperatures, and protection from frost. In areas where frost or freezes occur, plants are easily grown as annuals.
Growing Environment
Provide lots of water throughout the growing year, except towards fruit ripening time. Grow in most soil types and will do very well in poor soils and in pots. Plants are susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests as the tomato.
By seeds.
Germination Info
Cape Gooseberry seeds are usually fairly easy to germinate, though germination time can be a bit longer than other vegetable seeds. 1) Prepare for planting. Cape Gooseberry seeds should be sprouted in small containers, preferably 4″ or smaller. In-ground germination is not recommended because conditions are not as easily controlled. Use a standard potting mix that is well drained. Make sure potting mix is damp prior to planting the seeds. With very small seeds such as Cape Gooseberry, watering overly dry soil can cause the seeds to dislodge from their position and sink deep into cracks in the soil. Seeds that sink deeply into soil will not be able to reach the soil surface once germinated.

2) Plant seeds. Plant seeds 1/4″ deep in the soil. Cover with soil and water carefully. Over watering can cause fungal growth which leads to seed rot. Excess water can also bury seeds deep in the soil where they will not be able break the surface. Water when the soil surface just begins to dry. Multiple seeds can be planted in a single starter container, but should be thinned once seedlings appear so only a single plant remains.

3) Germination. Soil should be kept consistently warm, from 70-85F. Cool soils, below about 60-65F, even just at night, will significantly delay or inhibit germination. Hot soils above 95F will also inhibit germination.

4) Care of seedlings. Once a few true leaves have developed, seedlings should be slowly moved outside (if sprouted indoors) to ambient light. Care should be taken not to expose seedlings to direct, scorching sun so plants may need to be hardened off via slow sun exposure. Hardening off can be done using a shaded or filtered light location, as well as protection from strong winds, rain or low humidity. Hardening off time varies, but can take 5-10 days.

5) Planting out. Plant in the ground once danger of frost has past and daytime temperatures consistently reach 65F.

Germination time: 2-6 weeks under ideal conditions.
Uses are similar to common tomato. Can be eaten raw, used in salads, desserts, as a flavoring, and in jams and jellies. Fruits are excellent when dipped in chocolate, and can be dried and eaten.

Cape Gooseberry

Physalis was originally discovered and named in Peru and was known to the Incas. A herbaceous perennial which grows wild in the Andes. Its name originated in Australia after its journey from South Africa to the Cape of Good Hope even though it is not a native to the Cape.

Landscape Value
Grows and fruits well in a pot or may be used as a border plant where the soft grey-green foliage can be used to offset other species. Great border filler, where the fruit can be accessed and freely eaten.

Nutritional Value
Vitamins A, C & B, high in protein and rich in iron.

How to Eat
Great eaten fresh, dipped in melted chocolate or fondant icing. Use to decorate cheesecakes, pavlovas and gateaux. Cook and put in pies or make into jam or jelly. Compliments seafood, when made into a sauce, as it has a beautiful crisp flavour.

Expected Yield
300 fruits a year.