The UK's climate (most of the time) is perfectly designed to produce gooseberries - both the tart, green cooking gooseberries and the sweeter red varieties which appear a bit later.
Although classified as cookers, the green gooseberries can still be delicious to eat raw if you have those type of taste buds that enjoy something that is a bit tart. I grew up enjoying British candies such as sherbert lemons and pear drops while I love my very lemony tea to this day - I definitely have just such a type of taste buds.
English gooseberries were first cultivated in the UK during the 1500s as a natural remedy for fighting the symptoms being suffered by plague victims.
They reached the peak of their popularity during the 19th century. There were over two hundred different shows or competitions across the country where gardeners and allotment holders would compete with one another to produce the best gooseberries.
The thorns on gooseberries protect them from being eaten by birds and other creatures. The one thing you have to be wary of is the gooseberry saw fly. The flies lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf and the larvae hatch out and feed on the leaves. Look out for them and knock them off to prevent a big infestation.
Sadly, today gooseberries are not grown commercially because of their short season. But can be found in local farm shops and farmer's markets- and of course are still happily grown in gardens and allotments.
How to use those gooseberries
Pick and eat them raw straight from the bush.
Pick, top and tail and add to your breakfast cereal or serve as a fresh fruit dessert with a big dollop of yogurt - my favorite is natural yogurt with coconut.
Pick, top, tail, lightly sugar and stew as a base for crumbles, cobblers or pies.
Gooseberries can even be served in a sauce with oily foods such as mackerel, pork chops or roast goose.
I said in the title that gooseberries have no connection with geese but, after all and going by the sentence above, there is a very loose relationship!
The English slang nickname for gooseberries is goosegogs - a word that children especially will enjoy using!
How do you make a gooseberry fool?
Here is a simple recipe for a delicious dessert you can make easily at home.
You will need:
250g gooseberries topped and tailed
3 tbsp castor sugar (superfine granulated sugar)
200g Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
200ml double cream
Place the gooseberries and castor sugar in a pan with a splash of water.
Heat gently, stirring, then bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit starts to burst.
Mash the gooseberries with a potato masher or fork until pulpy.
Cool then chill until cold in the refrigerator.
Beat the yogurt in a bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth.
Gently whisk in the cream (it will thicken as you whisk so don’t overdo it).
Ripple creamy mixture through the gooseberry pulp then spoon into pretty glasses or bowls to serve.
What are Cape gooseberries?
Completely different to the regular gooseberry and certainly not from the same family,
Cape gooseberries are a soft edible yellow berry covered by a protective husk that resembles a lantern in shape and,
being a tropical South American plant, need a warm climate to flourish.
Very popular in East Africa and South Africa too where we used to eat them like sweets!
Jane writes for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions as well as a range of beauty products. Apart from writing about those various conditions, she also covers general health, environmental and other subjects of interest. She has lived in Kenya as well as Cape Town, South Africa and spent time in San Diego, USA. She now lives in Somerset, England with regular visits from her far-flung children and grandchildren. She is a keen gardener and enjoys growing fresh fruit and vegetables with her husband on their joint allotment. As a result, there is something available to use in the kitchen virtually all year round. Her regular posts can be found on our blog.