Gooseberries are a funny fruit – I’m never quite sure what to do with them. They stew okay, but they’re not in the same league as rhubarb or plums, for example. Raw they’re tasty, but I prefer to mix them in with other fruits as I find them a little tart on their own.
The gooseberries on my plot at the moment are certainly tart (pictured). They’re not ready to be eaten straight from the bush yet, but they’re close, and I reckon they’re just ripe enough to be cooked with.
A Fruit for the Lazy Grower
I’ve got cookers (green) and desserts (red), and the bushes were one of the first things I put in my plot. They were two year olds when I planted them, and four years later, the bushes are incredibly productive. Last year I picked 6lb worth of fruit from one bush alone.
I must confess that I’ve been very lazy with the bushes, and haven’t pruned them once in that time. As a result, they’re out of control, like big, spiky green afros. They’ve certainly not complained about my lackadaisical line in care though, which makes them great for the lethargic gardener.
You do need an element of focus when harvesting, as the branches are really prickly and will easily draw blood.
Dealing with the Gooseberry Glut
Another problem I have with gooseberries is that all seem to ripen at the same time. Much like strawberries, I can’t seem to stagger them. This might be because I bought all the same variety of bush, and I’m left with the mother of all gluts each year.
Fortunately, gooseberries freeze well, so my bags of berries go into a chest freezer for the winter. I’ve found this to be a rather useful way of doing things, as chopping off the berries’ top and tail is much easier when they’re frozen solid.
My favourite thing to do with the glut is making jam. Gooseberry jam is one of my favourite preserves, and not one you regularly see in the shops. I’d liken the flavour to strawberry, but it’s a lot easier to get a set with as the fruit carries a higher pectin content. I’ve used gooseberry jam in Victoria sponges and hardly noticed the difference.
Trying Some New Recipes
I’d like this year to be different though. Another bumper crop appears to be on the cards, but I’m going to try and resist throwing my whole harvest into a preserving pan and freezer bags. I’ve been surfing the web looking for new ideas on how to use gooseberries.
I’ve never tried crumbling gooseberries, but when is crumble not a hit? Gooseberry fool looks quick, easy and delicious too.
Elderflower is starting to show in abundance now as well, and is supposed to be a great match for gooseberry. Again, I’ve never tried this combo before, but I really like the idea of this gooseberry and elderflower fool recipe.
And a cake. I want a cake. There must be a nice gooseberry cake out there I can make.
So, with a fair wind and some help from google, I’m hoping for a jolly good gooseberry month. I’ll post some pics of what I try on Twitter, and if you’ve got a gooseberry favourite, please let me know. I’d love to give it a try.