Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) Growing and Utilization in Kenya
Lusike Wasilwa, Vincent Ochieng, Francis Wayua, Anthony Nyaga, Stephen Mwanzia, Fatuma Omari and Paul Omolo
In 2010, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (now Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)) classified cape gooseberry as an underutilized fruit in Kenya. It was ranked by stakeholders as the 7th most important underutilized fruit. This fruit may have been introduced into Kenya through bird migratory corridors from Europe and Southern hemisphere, or recently as imports by local supermarkets. The centre of origin of this crop is in South America (Peru, Columbia and Ecuador) where it moved to England in 1774 (Morton, 1987) and Cape of Good Hope before 1807. This fruit grows wild as an understory shrub in forest areas of Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, Timboroa Forest, Kakamega Forest, Koibatek Forest, Coastal lowlands and is wildly distributed in the highlands of Kenya. Gooseberry has been sold on the road side in the Rift Valley by youth since early 2,000. Between 2004 and 2006 cape gooseberry was grown on large-scale in Kibwezi and the fruit was processed by Delmonte to make jam. It is important to note that cape gooseberry, goldenberry, or yellow berry was classified as one of the 100 crops selected for commercialization in Kenya’s The Big 4 Agenda.
Fig. 1. Cape gooseberry plant with mature fruit (Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
Cape gooseberry is a herbaceous shrub that originated from South America where it was first commercialized in 1985. The first imports of fresh fruit of this crop are recorded in 2015, when Kenya begun to import cape gooseberry from Columbia sold in supermarkets. Since then this crop has been imported from Netherlands and assorted farms in Columbia. Gooseberries are sold in supermarkets grocery stores, and various road side markets.
Cape gooseberry is a short shrub that reaches height of 50 100 cm and can spread up to 4 meters wide. This crop produces a fruit called a berry that is bright yellow in colour when ripe and weighs between 3.5 to 10g and has a diameter of 1 to 2.5cm. In Kenya you may find greenish-yellow fruit in market places because of pre-mature or early harvesting. When cut open, the fruits contain numerous small seeds per fruit ranging between 100 to 300 seed.
Fig 2. Gooseberry in Busia Agricultural Training Centre.
This picture shows the shrubby nature of this plant (Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
Cape gooseberry is commercially propagated by seed and stem cuttings.
Seed collection: Squeeze fresh fruits contents on an absorbent paper or cloth. The juice will soak in the absorbent material and leave small seeds on the surface. Dry the seeds under shade for one to three days and then plant or store them in a paper bag, in a cool dry place. Another way is to squeeze the fruit in a plastic bag to extrude the content including seed. Repeatedly press the fruit until it is completely pulped.
Fig. 3. Cape gooseberry seed processing
Add water and pour into a larger bowl. Shake gently whereby upon settling, the seed will sink to the bottom (see picture above). Gently decant (pour off) the fruit debris. Wash the seed three times, gently pouring off the debris. Place the wet, well-drained seed on a tray and let it dry under shade for 3 to 5 days. Store the seed in a paper bag, in a cool dry place.
Propagation using seed: The common practice of gooseberry propagation is through seed that is used to produce seedlings. It is important to note that seedlings propagated from seed are vigorous. Cape gooseberry seed are hardy seed with a high germination percentage (85% – 90%). The seed germinate 7 to 15 days after planting when day temperatures range between 22 to 28°C, and night temperatures between 7 to 13°C.
For seed propagation, sprinkle the seed on seed bed made by mixing loam soil, sand and farm yard manure (FYM) at a ratio of 3:2:1 i.e. 3 parts loam soil: 2 parts sand:1 part FYM. Seeds are sawn in raised seed beds that are 1-meter-wide and 10 inches deep. Ensure that the surface is flat. The edge of the seed-bed can be supported with wood or bricks. Seeds are sparsely placed on the surface of soil in rows 2 inches apart. Sprinkle a thin layer of soil and gently water with mist or a very light sprinkle. It is optional to place a thin layer of coarsely cut grass.
|Seed of potting mix
|3 week-old seedlings
|Bags filled with potting mix ready to plant
|Seedling ready for field transplanting
Fig. 4. Cape gooseberry propagation (Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
Fig. 5. Cape gooseberry propagation using plastic cups. In this system the seeds are directly planted into the cups and seedlings grown until they are ready for field planting (Source: Stephen Mwanzia)
Seed can also be planted in pots on finely cut moist coco-peat at least 4 inches thick. Sprinkle a shallow layer of coco-peat and lightly water. If practicing rain-fed agriculture, begin raising seedlings in the seed-bed mid-February for field planting end of March or allow for 6 weeks. Seeds can also be planted in plastic seeding trays/flats filled with coco-peat. Put two seeds per cell and once germinated allow them to grow on the tray up to a height of 15 cm.
Propagation using stem cuttings: – In case of stem cuttings, sections with 3 to 4 nodes are used. The young stem sections are cut late in the afternoon and dipped in a rooting hormone. These cuttings are planted in soil prepared as described above at a depth of 1 inch. Seedlings propagated using stem-cuttings tend to flower earlier and provide good yields although less vigorous than those propagated from seed. Stems cuttings can also be propagated using air-layering. To this, the stems of gooseberry plant are pinned to the ground using a plastic or wooden peg. Roots will form and plantlets can be excised from the main plant after 4 to 6 weeks.
Site and Soil Requirements:
It is recommended to plant cape gooseberry in a sunny location, sheltered from strong winds. A wind break using trees and hedges can also be used to shelter the plants. In Kenya, gooseberries grow wild as an understory shrub. Although gooseberry can be planted on unhealthy degraded soils, it is recommended that green-manure legume crops (cowpeas, desmodium and beans) are periodically incorporated to improve the soil. Cape gooseberry grows well on well-drained loam soils enriched with sufficient organic matter from humus and well decomposed farm yard manure (cattle and chicken) at least 10 to 20 tons per hectare. This plant is hardy and can also grow on sandy soils. Farmers should take soil samples for testing to confirm the soil pH that is suitable for this crop that ranges between 5.5 – 6.5. Care should be taken not to over fertilize the soil because excessive nitrogen will trigger excessive vegetative growth with poor fruit colour formation.
Plough the field by harrowing to a fine tilth thus avoiding big clumps of soil. Amend the soil by adding and thoroughly mixing 20 tons (can use 10 tons) of FYM per hectare or 10 tons per acre.
Plant Spacing: Use a spacing of 3-4 feet (0.9 -1.2 meters) within the row and 5-6 feet (1.5 – 1.8 meters) between rows. Gooseberry seedlings are transplanted when they attain 10 to 20 cm tall. Transplant directly into a hole previously preloaded with farm yard manure and wetted with water. Insert a one-meter stake to mark the plant to avoid losses during weeding (see Fig. 6. below that shows a field 6 weeks after planting). Fasten the young seedlings loosely on a stake for support and water immediately after planting. Manage weeds by lightly weeding with a hoe (jembe) or machete (panga). The plants should be water regularly to avoid moisture stress. Under dry/drought conditions, the plants become dormant and abort all the flowers. To ensure continuous production, the plants should be continuously watered.
Fig. 6. Gooseberry plants 6 weeks after planting (Source: Anthony Nyaga)
Gooseberries can also be planted as hedge rows (see Fig. 7). The spacing under this system is 1 meter (between plants within the row) and 2 meters between the rows. This system allows for production of “clean” cape gooseberry fruit.
Fig. 7. Cape gooseberry hedge-row production system (Source: Stephen Mwanzia)
Fertilizer: The first crop of gooseberry does not require any addition supplemental fertilizer. For the second year supplemental fertilizer should be applied at the rate of 100 kg nitrogen, 60 kg of phosphorus and 60 kg of potassium (Prasad et al., 1985). Mavuno fertilizer is highly recommended at the rate of 2 sacks per hectare (NB: Each sack weighs 50 kg). This is a slow release fertilizer that will allow for continuous production of “sweet” fruits. Application of a foliar spray of 1% potassium chloride before and just after blooming enhances fruit quality (Tyagi and Sahay, 2016). Potassium promotes flowering and fruit set and calcium is important for tissue and calyx formation. Boron is also required for Total Soluble Solids (TSS) content of fruit. It is important to note that optimal yields can be attained with minimal or no fertilizer.
Training and Pruning: Plants can be allowed to grow and spread on the ground or trained on a trellis. If a trellis is used, then the spacing between the rows is 1.5 meters. The plant canopy (new shoots) can be pruned to trigger lateral branch formation for increased area (bushiness) for fruit formation. Pruning can also open the canopy to allow for more penetration of light, thus enhancing fruit quality. Gooseberry plants are also pruned just before the beginning of the rain season to stimulate multiple branching. Also after the harvest season it is recommended to cut back the stems after fruiting has finished.
Flowering and Fruiting:
|Cape gooseberry is a self-pollinated plant. The flowers are hermaphrodite meaning that they have both male and female organs in the flowers. Plants will begin to flower 4 to 6 weeks after transplanting or when plants have formed 12 to 13 internodes. Flowering and fruiting of gooseberry depends on variety and agro-ecological zone. Gentle shaking gooseberry plants trained on a trellis can promote pollination. It has been reported that lightly spraying the plants with water can enhance pollination. Flowers fall of the plant and the calyx grows to cover the fruit which matures in 70 to 80 days.
In Kenya gooseberry grows as an understory crop in forests and is found in agro-forestry systems as an intercrop. They cover about 1 to 2.5m wide ground and thus a good crop for kitchen and school gardens. The can also be grown in landscapes as ornamentals. Cape gooseberries begin bearing 3 to 4 months after transplanting and continue bearing fruit for up to two years if maintained well. This crop has large return on investment and is sold in roadside, produce markets, grocery shops, supermarkets, and upscale supermarkets.
Cape gooseberry fruit is harvested 60 to 100 days after flowering or when the calyx has a tan (dry- grass) or light-brown colour, or fruit drop down. The harvest season lasts for 3 to 4 months. Because of bimodal rainfall in Kenya, gooseberries can be harvested twice a year. First season from July to September and second one from December to March. The fruit is ready to harvest 55 days after anthesis or when the calyx is dry. When the calyx driers, the fruit ripens and becomes sweet. The colour of the fruit also changes to yellow-orange when ripe. Gooseberry may also be harvested when the fruit has a green-yellow colour and allowed to ripen. Fruit is harvest every 2 to 3 weeks. Gooseberries will continue bearing for 2 years if maintained well.
Fig. 9. Mature gooseberry with distinct tan/light brown calyx (Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
The fruits are usually picked from the plants by hand every 2 to 3 weeks, although some growers prefer to shake the plants and gather the fallen fruits from the ground in order to obtain those of more uniform maturity. In rainy or dewy weather, the fruit is not picked until the plants are dry. Berries that are wet should be dried in the sun for a short time.
The harvested fruits are picked in traditional baskets, plastic buckets, etc. Harvested fruits should be put under shade or protected from direct sunshine.
Gooseberry are adapted to wide agro-ecological zones in Kenya. The yields of this plant are influenced by agro-ecological zones, variety, soil-type, soil nutrition management and crop management practices. Water level and soil nutrition affect taste and sugar content of this crop. An individual gooseberry plant can yield up to 300 fruits per season (see figure below).
Fig 10. A gooseberry plant with many mature fruit (Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
The average yield observed in Kenya is 4 to 6 tons per hectare. Naik (1949) reports that under optimal management, this crop can yield up to 10 tons per hectare. Some varieties in Kenya bear 6 to 7 months of the year.
Cape gooseberry gives quick-returns to smallholder farmers. Amount of gooseberry produced from one acre:
- About 2,200 plants
- 1 plant for ex-Brazil gooseberry produces about 300 fruits per season
- 1 fruit weighs about 5 g thus each plant produces 1-5 kg per season.
- Kenya has two season per year thus ex-Brazil gooseberry yields about 6.6 tons per acre
- Preliminary results showed that ex-Columbia (400g per plant) out yielded ex-South Africa (210g) and ex-Peru (80g) production for two months
The sweetest tasting gooseberry are those from Netherlands (ex-Columbia), compared to ex-Peru and ex-South Africa.
Cape gooseberry should be harvested using plastic crates that are clean and dry. The fruit should be stored under shade in a fully aerated room. It is recommended not to remove the calyx until ready for use. Fruits with intact calyx have a shelf-life of 4 to 6 weeks at room temperature in a well aerated room. For prolonged storage, gooseberry fruits can be stored at 2-4°C for 4 to 5 months.
Fruits are sold at farm-gate, on the road side, village markets and grocery shops, supermarkets, Agriculture Training Centres and KALRO Centres (see Fig. 11 and Fig. 12). Gooseberries are also packaged and marketed by are several small agribusinesses enterprises in Kenya. Some fruit is imported into the country from Netherlands and Colombia by supermarkets.
Fig. 11. Cape gooseberry from Naivasha Road fruit vendor, September 2008
Fig. 12. Sale of cape gooseberry by youth in Rift Valley road side, January 2018
|(Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
|(Source: Lusike Wasilwa)
The calyx is removed from fruit for some markets. This fruit should be stored at 6 to 10°C and sold within a week. Since this is a newly commercialized fruit, the cost has not stabilized and currently costs KES 100 for 200g.
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