Belonging to the genus Ribes gooseberries are related to black currants and redcurrants. The British climate is particularly well-disposed to producing perfect gooseberries - juicy, tart and full-flavoured. Reccently gooseberries become more popular again and we grow masses of them at Leigh Court Farm!
The gooseberry season starts with the familiar green gooseberries. These are the best ones for cooking. Use them to make a delicious gooseberry fool or poach them with a little sugar and water to make a traditional accompaniment to mackerel. Later season dessert gooseberries (often pinky golden coloured) are sweet enough to be eaten raw - try them in fruit salads.
Gooseberries can vary quite a bit in sharpness; be prepared to adjust the amount of sugar specified in recipes.
Firm cooking gooseberries will keep (unwashed) in the fridge for a week or two. They also freeze well. Softer dessert gooseberries are less durable keep them refridgerated and eat with i two or three days
Indigenous to cooler areas of Europe and western Asia, gooseberries were first cultivated in Britain in the sixteenth century when they were used medicinally and recommended to plague victims in London. They reached a peak of popularity in nineteenth century Britain when gooseberry wines, pies and puddings were commonplace. Amateur gooseberry clubs, mostly in the Midlands and North of England, held fiercely-fought competitions to find the biggest and tastiest fruit, and many new varieties were developed during this period.
In 1905 the whole European crop of gooseberries was wiped out by a mildew disease accidentally introduced from America. The plant was reintroduced by crossing with mildew-resistant American gooseberries. Today gooseberries are grown and eaten in cooler climates across the globe, from northern America and northern Europe to the Himalayas.
Gooseberries are a good source of fibre and vitamins A and C.