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Homeschool Garden Club - Gooseberries

Gooseberries are one of my personal favourites and an easy-to-grow soft fruit. All I have done to my two bushes was to plonked them in the ground and left them to get on with it. They come in lovely range of colours and tartness.


We have two well established bushes, that give really good harvests every year. This is just as well, as we love them. Gooseberries are delicious cooked in pies or as a gooseberry fool. When we get a glut I even have stewed gooseberries as a porridge topper.

Why Should We Even Eat Them?


Gooseberries are lower in calories than some other fruit, this is because they are a tart fruit. This means their flavour is a mixture of the sour and some of the natural fruit sugars. Grow them without pesticides and they are even better. add to that their vitamin content what is there not to like?


What we would recommend comes from the learners themselves. Having been out to the Pick Your Own farms during lockdowns and having sampled a few different varieties and compared these with the ones we are growing between the Orchard Training Homeschool Garden Club and the Cookery Club members, we have 4 different varieties of gooseberries we would recommend:

  • incita - these have big green berries.

  • Hinnonmaki Red - there are a good cropper with big red berries

A recommendation from the National Vegetable grower is Pax, which is a virtually spin free variety. Less prickly for the younger growers of out club.

How to Grow Gooseberries


I put both of mine at the edge fo one bed a long time ago. As my plot has developed the bushes are now in the middle! This makes it easier to pick from all sides but occasionally I get scratch from the bushes as I pass to closely.


These are easy to grow almost any were but you can grow them well in large containers with a soil based compost. Tt is a good idea to mulch but also to weed very regularly under the bush to stop the leaves being eaten by gooseberry sawfly. These winter in the soil and can strip your gooseberry bush of leaves over night. Weeding exposes the larvae to the birds before they get on the bush. They look like caterpillars but they have shinier skins and extra legs at the front.


How to Care for Gooseberry Bushes


We want lots of gooseberries and so the bushes will need feeding, and this is done in the early spring with a sulphate of potash feed. Feed gooseberry bushes in early spring with sulphate of potash (follow packet instructions) later in autumn put lots fo well rooted manure or compost around the plants. during the summer holidays look top run the plant a little to give the open goblet shape to prevent mildew.


How to Harvesting Gooseberries


Haveresting needs a careful hand as they can be quite unforgiving with the spins. Although the variety 'Pax' is a good one for young children. The general rule of thumb is: the earlier you pick the tarter they are (best for pies etc.) and the long you leave them the sweeter (better for making Fool unless you like a sharp Fool.)


So, start in June by thinking out the smaller fruit and using the thinning for the pies and tarts that need a sour sharp tart flavour.


Then in late July and August pict the large gooseberries carefully and use these for the Fool.


How to Cook with Gooseberries


There are some sweet dessert gooseberries that can be eaten in a fruit salad.


The rest of these fruits are best picked and cooke on the same day, but you can store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. However, they freeze really well so plan to cook them off and then freeze. Simply, top and tail them before cooking, then the gooseberries can be cooked in pies or stewed to make purées, jams and chutneys.


Here is a recipe from the Orchard Training Cookery Club as an incentive to get a gooseberry bush of your own.


Gooseberry Fool


You will need:

250g gooseberry (topped and tailed)

3 tablespoons caster sugar

200g 0% fat Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Method

1. Put the gooseberries and sugar in a pan with a splash of water.

2. Heat gently, stirring, then bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit starts to burst.

3. Squash the gooseberries with a potato masher or fork until pulpy.

4. Cool then chill until cold in the fridge.

5. Put the yoghurt in a bowl and beat with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth.

6. Gently whisk in the cream (it will thicken as you whisk so don’t overdo it).

7. Ripple through the gooseberry pulp then spoon into pretty glasses or bowls to serve.


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