Cape Gooseberry FruitBefore I get arrested by the weed police for growing a plant which is prohibited from sale or commercial propagation in New South Wales and Queensland, I should make it known that I bought my Cape Gooseberry bush from a grower in Victoria. I have it growing underneath a couple of lime trees and it has already made good use of their branches to scramble up into the canopy, spreading and climbing in all directions. Today I have been foraging underneath all this tangle for the fruit which lie on the ground quietly protected by a papery calyx without interference from bugs or slugs.They are delicious when eaten fresh as they have a good balance of tart and sweet flavour and the more golden coloured they are the better they taste. The papery husk becomes almost like lace after a time and that is a good indication of when the fruit is at its best. I guess they are no longer a commercial crop here because harvesting them is fairly labour intensive and not all the fruit on a bush ripens at once. However old timers such as myself who grew up in Brisbane will remember the wonderful cape gooseberry jam produced by Mason's Jam factory in the Brisbane suburb of The Gap up until the early 1970's. A fantastic artisan product in the days before farmers' markets and organic growers.
The fruit has more of a tradition of use in Europe. In France where it is known as coqueret du Perou, the fruit is glazed, cut in half and used on top of cream iced petit fours thus resembling a charming miniature fried egg. The tart fruit flavour perfectly balanced with sweet cream. No such imaginative use here, even though it is recorded as having been grown in Sydney as early as 1802, appearing under the name of Physalis pubescens ,a reference to the soft downy stems and leaves.Because it is a weed I won't give any horticultural cultivation notes for growing it but happy foraging for those who live on the warm east coast. The NSW online Flora database gives all the districts where it can be found. Remember to always to get positive identification of a wild plant from an expert before eating anything if you are not sure whether it is ok.