The cape gooseberry is a low lying bush with a bright orange-yellow berry enclosed in a pale brown parchment-like case, hence the term cape. It is a native of South America and is about the size of a cherry tomato. It is full of tiny edible seeds and is a very aromatic fruit.
The cape gooseberry grows in Brazil,Peru and Chile. In 1774 early settlers in England cultivated the berry as did settelrs at the Cape of Good Hope before 1807. The berry was then carried to Australia where it quickly spread into the wild. The seeds were also taken to Hawaii.
Cape gooseberries contain useful quantities of beta carotene and vitamin C as well a substantial amount of potassium. Beta carotene and Vitamin C help to promote a strong immune system while potassium plays an important role in controlling blood pressure.
Gooseberries also contain a useful soluble fibre and are fairly low in calories. However since most people like to stew gooseberries in sugar syrup and then serve them with fresh cream or desserts, the calories increase manifold.
Cape gooseberries grow all over South Africa. Most people prefer to eat only the fruit but the Xhosa and Fingo people also use the leaves which are cooked like spinach.
Including yellow and orange fruits a part of our daily diet helps us to maintain:
- The heart
- Our vision
- Our immune system
- lower the risk of some cancers*
The unripe fruits is poisonous is believed to have caused illness and death in cattle in Australia.
The cape goosberry is believed to have certain healing properties. In Colombia, the leaf are boiled into a decoction which is believed to be a diuretic and antiasthmatic. In South Africa, the leaves are heated and applied as poultices on inflammations. The people of the Zulu tribe believe that and infusion made with the leaves relieve abdominal ailments in children.
Selection and storage
Select berries which are firm and dry and have a rich sheen. The colour should be a bright golden with no green. Green berries may however be used for jams and jellies.
Cape gooseberries last for a fairly long time. The fresh fruits can be stored in a sealed container along with the husk in a dry, cool place for several months.
Ripe gooseberries also store well and can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They might turn slightly soft during storage.
Gooseberries vary in taste depending on the variety. Some varieties can be extremely bitter. The ones which are not so bitter can be used in fruit salads or as a garnish for desserts. The husk has to be peeled off and the berry must be rinsed before use. The stems need to be snipped off before cooking or eating.
Gooseberries are delicious when eaten fresh. They can also be poached in a sugar syrup on low heat. Thy are ready when the skins collapse. They can be made into jam, added to fruit salads and desserts, used to garnish cheesecakes and gateaux, or cooked and used as filling for pies or cakes. In Colombia, they are simply stewed with honey and served as a dessert.
- Gooseberries cooked with apples or ginger to make a delicious dessert.
- Gooseberries can be added to fruit salad.
- Use as a garnish.
- Make gooseberry jam or jelly.