Gooseberries - A Complete Guide

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I always think of gooseberries of being divided into two groups of thought; those who love them and those who hate them. The tartness can be too great for some but for me there is something quintessentially English about gooseberries and the way they are used in the kitchen.

Red Gooseberry

They make a wonderful fool, pie or crumble and a formidable jam flavoured with lemon or elderflower. Gooseberries are loaded with natural pectin making for economical preserving and they are particularly suited to bottling and freezing so giving year-round possibilities.

Fruit crops can be quite prolific given a certain amount of care and luck. They need protecting from birds, there is nothing worse than seeing just ripening fruits one day gone the next. If gooseberry bushes are left to their own devices, and some say they should be, then they will continue to bear fruit for a number of years but I find sensible pruning in winter and summer beneficial for a healthy glut of fruit.

Sawfly can be a problem as can mould which is why cordons are so popular giving the stems greater access to light and air and, although the resulting crop is reduced the health of the plant will be invariably better than that of a bush. When pruning and shaping look for a ‘v’ like shape, cut the centres back to allow air and wind to push through the plant reducing the problems of possible sawfly. I also find an healthy handful of potash spread around the base of the plant gives any fruit bush a good kick-start.

There are a number of varieties to choose from, both green and red-I must admit to a visual preference for the reds. Leveller and Whinham’s Industry are particularly good as are Whitesmith and Lancashire Lad.

If you are yet to be convinced by the merits of gooseberries than try again, make some jam or a crumble with plenty of custard, it might just change your mind.


Content and picture © Miles Collins

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