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Small in size but big on flavour, Cape gooseberries and tomatillos are easy to grow, bringing a unique tang and tartness to the kitchen table, says Sue Stickland


Cape gooseberries ooze exoticness: from their supermarket name of ‘Golden Berry’ to their use in luxury desserts and their distinctly tropical taste (like vanilla, coconut or pineapple perhaps?). Amazing then that they are so easy to grow – just like a tomato but without any problems from blight.

They are similarly native to South America, their name deriving not from their origin but from the Cape of Good Hope where they were popular among early settlers. In the UK, the plants will thrive in a cold greenhouse or outside in a warm sunny spot, although they need a long season to produce good yields of ripe berries.


Plants in the Cape gooseberry family (Physalis) are easy to spot because the fruits come self-wrapped in attractive (but not edible) papery lanterns. What I didn’t realise until I picked up a lonely plant at the end of a charity sale is that there are two different types of ‘Cape gooseberry’ with significant differences between them. The most well known is Physalis peruviana, which grows to about 1.5m (5ft) and bears the large deep yellow berries sold (at a price) in the shops. Seed of this type is sold simply as ‘Cape gooseberry’ or sometimes ‘tall’ or ‘giant’ Cape gooseberry, and a few named varieties are availab as plants. My rescued plan the other hand was low and bushy and produced much smaller fruits – not quite so rich colour but with a similar exotic flavour. As I found out later, it was another species (Physalis pruinosa), usually called dwarf Cape gooseberry or ground cherry.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Kitchen Garden is Britain's best guide to growing your own. It offers advice from the finest minds in gardening to make sure you get the tastiest produce from your plot.