Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees



 Cape Gooseberry - Physalis Peruviana

The Cape Gooseberry is a perennial that is originally from South America, as the name "Peruviana" suggests, but is now quite wide spread. There are over 80 closely related Physalis species. (see also Tomatillo)

Cape Gooseberry plants will grow and fruit readily from seed in the U.K. as they will happily stand cold Spring and Autumn nights and even some light frosts. Physalis plants grow up to 3 feet tall with large leaves, are very bushy and although they are perennials they're usually grown as annuals in the U.K. with the old plants being discarded/composted after the crop of yellow berries has been harvested. 

As the green fruits develop, a large green papery Calyx grows around them that dries brown to form a lantern shape. When the "Lanterns" are brown and crisp to the touch it is a sign that the berries inside are ripe. A ripe berry should be bright yellow and firm, but not so ripe that it is mushy. Berries will keep after picking, but if the brown "Lanterns" round them get at all damp they have a tendency to go moldy. The ripe berries have a waxy feel to them and should be washed before eating to remove the peppery taste in the coating.

Nowadays small punnets of Cape Gooseberries can often be seen on sale in the larger supermarkets, but they are quite expensive, so the cost of the fruit makes them a very worthwhile crop to grow. Even a couple of plants grown in tubs will yield several pounds worth, (In money not weight,) of fruit.

Seed can be bought from most gardening retailers, but don't buy the more common ornamental variety by mistake. In the ornamental varieties the calyxs, that form round the fruit, can be brightly coloured red which gave rise to its common name of Chinese Lanterns.

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