The Cape Gooseberry originated in Brazil and were introduced to the UK in the mid 1700's.
Although a perennial in its native state, is is generally treated as an annual in the UK due to it being unable to cope with temperatures below 0°C (32°F)
In the UK it is generally accepted that the best way to propagate is by sowing seed, although plants can be raised from tip cuttings taken from new growth should they survive the winter.
Sow seeds on the surface of a good seed compost and lightly cover with vermiculite then germinate at a temperature of 21°C (70°F)
Germination can take up to two weeks.
Prick out when large enough to handle into 70mm (3") pots of potting compost.
Gradually harden off until planting out time, circa week 20 if grown under cover.
They are suited to growing in sheltered sunny borders or in pots on the patio.
However better results are generally obtained if grown under cover e.g. a greenhouse or tunnel.
End of August
Subject to where grown they can grow from around 1-2 metres high (3-6ft)
The plants will grow in any well drained soil but do best on sandy soil that is not too rich in nutrients.
If too much nutrients are applied the plants tend to grow excessive leaf growth at the expense of flowers which ultimately means less fruit!
Plants need consistent watering to set a good fruit crop, but do not thrive in water-logged conditions.
Ease off with the watering as the fruit is nearing maturity.
The plants become dormant during drought.
The flowers that form in the leaf axils are bell shaped, yellow in colour with a brown/purple throat.
The flowers are self-pollinating, but pollination can be enhanced by gently shaking the flowering stems, or lightly spraying with water.
Fruit buds are produced after a dozen or so sets of leaves form.
The fruit forms after the flower falls, the calyx expands.
Initially they appear as straw-colored lantern shaped husks that enclose the embryo fruit.
Lantern shaped husk
The fruit takes aproximately 10 weeks from this stage to mature.
Quite often this stage is indicated when the husks/berries fall to the ground naturally.
The fruit has a smooth, waxy, orange-yellow skin and juicy pulp containing numerous very small yellowish seeds.
The fruit is harvested when it falls to the ground.
Not all fallen fruits may be in the same stage of maturity.
Unripe fruit should be laid out to ripen in a dry sunny location.
Mature fruit will keep for several months.
Pest and Diseases:
Aphids, Leaf miner and whitefly
Powdery mildew caused by poor ventilation around the plant/s, and root rot when grown on poorly drained soil.
Stored fruit can be adversely affected bt Botrytis.
Probably the most common use is as a preserve or jam.
Ripe fruit can be added to fruit salads or left to dry and form raisins.