“I used to think this plant got its name because it came from the Cape. I then discovered it was named after the cape-like husk that grows over the fruit”, says edible gardening expert Jane Griffiths. Here’s how to grow them
It’s a member of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes and potatoes. Birds are fond of the fruit and they can spread seed (and gooseberry plants) all over the garden.
The Cape gooseberry is a rewarding and easy plant to grow. While it’s happiest in full sun, it doesn’t mind semi-shade. It does well in poor soil; too much high-nitrogen fertiliser will result in more leaves than fruit. That said, it prefers well-drained soil and won’t do well with muddy, wet feet. It’s quite water wise and will survive periods of drought. Sow from seed or transplant seedlings throughout spring into early summer.
Although it’s a perennial, it’s grown as an annual in colder parts of the country as it dies back in a hard frost. In milder frost areas, the leaves die back but the roots survive. Cut back all the dead branches in early spring and it will pop up again.
This rambling plant benefits from having space to spread or something to climb over. I’ve found that it does well in amongst shrubby plants, where it climbs up and through them for support; the shrubs also protect the gooseberry from frost.
In the kitchen
Fresh cape gooseberries have a unique tart yet sweet flavour, making them the perfect match for meringues and fruit salads. Their tartness mellows with cooking and they are delicious baked as a crumble or pie. They have a high pectin content and quickly set when used for preserves or jam. They can also be dried or frozen whole as a nutritious snack.