Unusual Fruits, Part 1: What to Do with Gooseberries (with Jam Recipe)

| 7/21/2015 10:44:00 AM

Tags: gooseberries, canning, jams, fruit, Jo Ann Gardner, New York,


We were introduced to the joys of growing, using, and preserving gooseberries when we lived on a backcountry farm in Nova Scotia. In Canada, gooseberries, like black currants, were well known, following the British tradition. In the United States, because they are alternate hosts to white pine blister rust, both fruits were banned from some states (there was never a ban in Canada). But with the development of disease-resistant white pine and the introduction of rust-resistant fruit, gooseberries have become very desirable fruiting shrubs.

In the kitchen, they can be turned into a variety of delicious desserts and preserves, including jam without adding commercial pectin. Check with your local Cooperative Extension office to see if there are any restrictions on growing them in your area.

General Description

Gooseberries belong to the genus Ribes. Plants grow from 3-6 feet tall and as wide, with deeply lobed green leaves and prickles along their long, arching stems. Plump fruit, hanging close to the stem singly or in pairs, ranges in color from light green to light and purplish-red, about the size of green grapes. A gooseberry looks something like a green grape, too, although it is striped and not as round. You can pluck a ripe one right off the bush and pop it in your mouth, a satisfying balance of tart and sweet.

The native American gooseberry (R. hirtellum) and the European species (R. uva-crispa/R. grossularia) have been cross-bred for many years. Generally, those with dominant American blood lines have smaller fruit, more prolific production, and greater resistance to mildew like Pixwell, popular with home gardeners for its reliability. I pick its fruit when light green and turning pinkish-red. Poorman bears larger red fruit with fewer thorns. There are many more gooseberries that may be more suitable for your particular growing conditions. Consult varieties recommended by your local Extension office.

A Guide to Growing  and Harvesting Gooseberries

To plant, choose a site that is cool though not shady, with well-draining moist soil. Trim rootstock from 4 to 6 inches and put each in a bucket of water while preparing holes. With a space, make holes 5 feet apart and as deep as necessary to accommodate the roots.

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