Thursday, 8 December 2011


Posted by Rosie

Having a polytunnel means I can successfully grow more tender plants here in Normandy than might otherwise be possible. For me that has included 2 plants from the Physalis family, namely Tomatillos and Cape gooseberries.  To be honest I had never heard of tomatillos until I saw them in a seed catalogue although I did know the more common cape gooseberries (also sold as goldenberry and usually at exorbitant prices in some supermarkets).

Anyway tomatillos were the first I tried. They are like the big brother of cape gooseberries existing as either green or purple fruits in the characteristic papery case. I planted out 6 plants and they grew ... and grew ... and grew and then fruited abundantly. Far too abundantly it turned out especially when we discovered that whilst we didn't dislike the fruit they certainly weren't our favourites. Roasted and made into a salsa they were quite pleasant and I made passable jams and chutneys from them. However, this hardly made a dent in the bucketfuls that I had harvested. "Never mind," I thought, "I'll chuck them to the pigs."

Question - Do pigs like tomatillos?
Answers on a post card but I will give you a clue - the answer begins with N.

So I lobbed them on the compost heap. Ho hum. Warning. Tomatillo seeds survive all sorts of hot and cold conditions on the heap and freely self-seed the when you later spread the compost on your veg patch. 3 years later I have not sown a tomatillo yet I am still weeding them out of the veg garden. Grrr.

Cape Gooseberries have however been a lot more successful and a couple of days ago I cut back  the plants and harvested what turned out to be 1.6kgs of de-husked fruits. Once removed from their husk they don't keep long so I did a quick Internet search and it seemed I had 2 main choices of what to do with them. Chocolate dipped fruits or jam. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love chocolate but I think even I would have trouble eating 1.6kgs of dipped cape gooseberries ...  so jam it was. It's turned out a lovely colour and tastes both sweet and tart so is a very pleasing addition to my now groaning shelves of preserves.

Cape Gooseberry Harvest 2011
Last year I managed to overwinter one cape gooseberry plant under 3 payers of fleece and kept 4 young seedlings alive in the house. I'm hoping to do the same again this year with even more plants and sell the excess at the Easter Boot Fair I do. They are quite an expensive plant to buy and are a bit difficult to raise from seed. Also, looking at a couple of supermarket websites, had I wanted to buy 1.6kgs in the UK it would have cost me between £16.00 and £32.00/€18.00-€36.00!! Maybe I should take a jar of the jam with me for people to taste!


  1. I've tried to grow Cape Gooseberries from seed but never had any luck, maybe I need a polytunnel.....
    Anyway, your harvest looks great, and I expect the jam is delicious.
    Shame the piggies didn't want to eat the tomatillos!!

  2. Thank you - I think the polytunnel definitely helps to give as long enough season for the fruits to ripen.


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