It is quite surprising how many people don’t know that the old South African favourite Appelliefies, also known as Cape Gooseberries, are not the same fruit as the English Gooseberries that are used in classic desserts such as Gooseberry fool. This year I am growing both plants, after happily finding a few one metre tall bushes of the the English Gooseberries at a nursery in Pretoria. TI was told that they came from a farm in Tzaneen. The English type are quite hard to get hold of, but the Appelliefies are a dime a dozen, and once they get established in your garden, they thrive and have the potential to become a weed.
In the main picture are two of my different varieties of “gooseberry” plants before they went in the ground earlier this winter, with stock pictures of the fruit underneath. On the left is the English gooseberry & on the right is the Appelliefie / Cape Gooseberry. As you can see, the plants and their fruit look quite different. Here is some more information on their differences and characteristics.
Scientific name: Ribes uva-crispa
Origin: It is native to Europe, northwestern Africa, west, south and southeast Asia.
Distribution: The gooseberry is indigenous to many parts of Europe and western Asia, growing naturally in alpine thickets and rocky woods in the lower country, from France eastward, well into the Himalayas and peninsular India. In Britain, it is often found in copses and hedgerows and about old ruins, but the gooseberry has been cultivated for so long that it is difficult to distinguish wild bushes from feral ones, or to determine where the gooseberry fits into the native flora of the island.
Growing English gooseberries:
Mulch the root area with organic matter, such as garden compost or bark chips, to conserve soil moisture. Watering is seldom required but in very dry spells water every 14 days. Container-grown gooseberries often struggle in dry conditions, so carefully monitor their watering.
In late winter, feed with a balanced granular fertiliser at 100g per sq m (31/2oz per sq yd). Avoid feeding the plants with too much nitrogen because this can encourage sappy growth, which is prone to gooseberry mildew. To ensure good yields of large fruits you’ll need to prune and train gooseberries.
Plant bare-root gooseberries between late autumn and early spring, and container-grown plants at any time, avoiding waterlogged, parched or frozen soil. Select two- to three-year-old bushes with a well-balanced head of three to five main branches and a clear stem of 10-15cm (4-6in). Cordons should have a good spreading root system.
Bush plants: Space 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart.
Cordons: Space gooseberry cordons 30-38cm (12-15in) apart and red or white currants 38-45cm (15-18in) apart. Plant each cordon tied to a 1.7m (51/2ft) bamboo cane that is secured to horizontal wires spaced 60cm and 1.2m (2ft and 4ft) apart.
Cape Gooseberry / Appelliefies
Scientific name: Physalis peruviana
Origin: Native to high-altitude, tropical Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, where the fruits grow wild.
Distribution: The plant was grown by early settlers of the Cape of Good Hope before 1807. It is not clear whether it was grown there before its introduction to England, but sources since the mid-19th century attribute the common name, “Cape gooseberry” to this fact. Not long after its introduction to South Africa, Physalis peruviana was introduced into Australia, New Zealand, and various Pacific islands. In Egypt it is known locally as harankash or as is-sitt il-mistahiya (the shy woman), a reference to the papery sheath. It is also grown in India where it is called ras bhari and in northeastern China, as well as Thailand.
Growing Cape gooseberries
Cape Gooseberries will grow in a wide range of soils and pHs. Soil must be well draining. Plants will handle periods of drought but too much moisture could encourage fungal problems. Plant in early spring as this will help with an earlier fruit set. Space them about 30cm to 1/2 a metre apart. In most situations Cape Gooseberries do not need any fertiliser. Unneeded fertiliser could result in lots of vegetation and little fruit. Pinch out new shoots to encourage bushy growth. Prune back hard in spring to encourage new growth for fruiting.
Cape gooseberries are frost tender and grows as an annual in colder regions. In warmer areas they will grow for several seasons producing seedlings to continue the plants. Frosts can burn the plants but will recover unless the frost was hard. Prune back after all frosts have passed.