At seed starting time, I had three plants I was overwintering, and I wanted to see if they would pull through, and I was swamped with all those tomatoes I was trying to start. By planting out time, two had died and I only had one which I planted in the Spiral Garden, but it turned out to be a water logged spot due to all the spring rains, and it didnt make it. It DID finally mature two seed pods that it never matured over the winter,but the seeds were minuscule and not as good looking as the original seeds I purchased.
It irks me that it doesn't look like I could save seeds from year to year, but that's sometimes the way it goes with tropical plants up north. If the older commercial seeds I sent rainbowgardener had poor germination, I'll probably have to buy new seeds for next year. I miss not growing them this year.
Last year about this time is when mine started to bloom, then kept going until hard frost killed the one I left outside under the floating cover. You want to let them bloom and fruits to set, then when the fruits are good size, snap them off to harvest. The ones I dug up and brought inside did bloom but I couldn't get the fruit to set despite hand pollinating. I think if I were doing it again, I would just pick the flowers and dry them.
Before killing frost, you should probably strip the plant outside.
I separated the calyces/bracts from the fruit and dried them. I recommend freezing the fruit because they molded easily and I lost quite few.
I mostly used the dried calyces in herbal tea blends.
Earlier in this thread, I posted a link to some uses that Lorax posted, including -I think- what to do with the fruits. I think there is also another thread or post, but I have to look for it. Imafan, I did not read that you can eat the leaves -- what have you heard?