Ribes ulva-crispa, gooseberries, are an excellent fruit bush for my climate and location. They grow prolifically, yield well every year, and are very easy to propagate. (I have expanded my number of plants by taking hardwood cuttings, which have rooted well.)
They are native to temperate areas of Europe, and have been cultivated in the British Isles since 1276. (Note that in America, different, perhaps native, fruit bushes may sometimes be better choices.)
Once a common staple of kitchen gardens, and particularly in vogue during the 19th Century, they have fallen out of favour for many modern gardeners. But for a number of reasons, they are one of my favourites among the fruit bushes I have in my forest garden.
Since I will soon harvest some of the under-ripe berries from my gooseberry bushes, I thought now would be a good time to share some of the reasons why I find this such a useful plant in my garden.
Gooseberries (I grow the green ones) are, perhaps, not to everyone’s taste. They are very tart, even when fully ripe. And so are most frequently used with sugar, honey or other sweeteners in preserves or desserts. But personally, I like them raw when they are fully ripe.
I tend to pick unripe gooseberries to juice, since gooseberry juice is a rather good substitute for lemon juice in a range of recipes. I use gooseberry juice to add some acidity to an elderflower cordial, for example. and even in curry recipes and other savoury meals.
I also pick some of the abundant berries to make a range of preserves, including gooseberry jam, chutneys, gooseberry relish and more… One interesting thing about gooseberry jam is that when cooked at high temperatures for a longer period, the green gooseberries yield a reddish jam.
I then go on to use up gooseberries in a range of other recipes. They are particularly useful because they can be harvested before the bulk of the other fruit bushes in the forest garden such as the currants, raspberries etc. are ready to harvest.