Cape Gooseberry 'Golden Nugget'
Scientific Name: Physalis peruviana
Common Names: Cape Gooseberry 'Golden Nugget', Golden Berry, Inca Berry, Peruvian Groundcherry, Pichuberry, Poha
Cape gooseberries are native to Peru and Chile but were introduced to and commercially grown near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa during the early 19th century, this is from where their common name derives.
The ripe golden fruit have a sweet, but tart flavour and a juicy, but seedy texture. Remove cape gooseberry fruit from the surrounding dry calyx before eating. Cape gooseberries can be eaten fresh out of hand, used to make jams and preserves or used as a filling in baked goods such as pies and pastries. Ensure cape gooseberry fruits are fully ripe before eating, unripe fruits contain toxins like many other Solanaceae family members such as tomatoes. This heirloom variety of cape gooseberry 'Golden Nugget' produces larger fruit than wild type cape gooseberry plants.
Cape gooseberry is a short-lived perennial in warmer climates, growing and fruiting for 3 to 4 years with peak fruit production in 2 year old plants. Cape gooseberry will die if exposed to frosts but can be grown as an annual in cooler climates as it will set fruit in its first year, although production will be limited. Choose a growing location that receives full sun or light shade. Cape gooseberry plants will grow in poor soils but will be most productive when planted in rich, fertile soil. If your soil is sandy or lacking in organic matter lay down plenty of well-rotted manure or compost prior to planting. Top dress around cape gooseberry plants with a complete organic fertiliser if growth is slow or at the first sign of any nutrient deficiency. Cape gooseberry plants often suffer from stripey tobacco slug beetles the larvae and adults of which feed voraciously on cape gooseberry leaves. You can control these pests organically by squishing them, inter-planting insect repellent herbs or by netting plants. Netted plants may have low fruit set as pollinators won't be able to reach the flowers, however cape gooseberry flowers are self-fertile and can be hand-pollinated by rapidly tapping any open flowers about once a week to knock pollen from the male anthers onto the female stigma of each flower. Cape gooseberry plants can also suffer from mites which will stunt growth and reduce fruit production, if these are a problem in your area cape gooseberry plants are best grown as an annual and culled before mite infestations get too severe. Cape gooseberries may self-sow in your garden if growing conditions are ideal, if this becomes a problem you should stay on top of harvesting the fruit and learn what the young seedlings look like so you can weed them out before they take over.
When to Sow:
In cold and mountainous regions of Australia sow cape gooseberry seeds during Spring as soon as any chance of frost has past, this will ensure plants have a long enough growing season to produce decent quantities of fruit in their first year. In temperate regions of Australia sow cape gooseberry seeds from late Winter to early Summer, again waiting for any chance of frost to pass. In frost-free subtropical areas of Australia sow cape gooseberry seeds from mid Winter to early Autumn. In tropical regions of Australia sow cape gooseberry seeds during the dry season, from early Autumn to late Winter is ideal.
How to Sow:
Cape gooseberry seeds should be sown about 4mm deep. Cape gooseberries naturally produce seeds with a low viability rate, to produce consistent seedlings with maximum vigour sow 5 or 6 seeds into each planting hole and thin to the healthiest seedlings after a few weeks growth. Space cape gooseberry plants about 50cm apart to give their root systems room to expand and facilitate airflow between plants which will help reduce fungal issues.
Cape gooseberry seeds can have slow, erratic germination but don't be disheartened, most seeds will germinate 2 to 4 weeks after sowing.
Time to Harvest:
Cape gooseberry fruits can take a long time to fully ripen, but plants should begin producing fruit 16 to 20 weeks after sowing.