What’s with gooseberries?


I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything about food. In fact, not being able to know everything about food is one of the reasons I think it makes such a satisfying profession. Working in this business is always interesting and offering up new challenges.

But, sometimes, those challenges catch you by surprise. Take yesterday for example. I zipped over to my local fancy supermarket – it was the only store open in my area on Canada Day – to pick up a few things for recipe testing when I saw this hand-written sign: “Ontario Gooseberries are Here!” Excited that there was something newly seasonal in the store, I plunked down $3.99 for a pint of gooseberries grown on Allberry Farm in Jordan, Ontario.

I was excited as I drove home. Here I was, on the precipice of a new food experience. I literally came home, washed them and popped one into my mouth before I even put my keys away. And you know what?  It was awful! Super sour. I admit it;  I spat it out.

Dudes what’s the deal with gooseberries? Do you need to cook them or did I get a woefully under-ripe container?  Or, is the name the key: are they only fit for feeding to geese? As you can see above, they look pretty enough to eat. Seriously, I need you guys to send me your gooseberry advice and recipes.


25 Responses to What’s with gooseberries?

  1. Jeanne says:

    They must have picked those gooseberrries while still unripe. I recall grazing wild gooseberries off the stalk in Manitoba – a couple of hundred years ago – and there was a vast difference in the sweetness as they ripened.

  2. Rosa says:

    I love gooseberries! They are better cooked (with sugar). My favorite way of using them is in a pie (http://mtkilimonjaro.blogspot.com/2008/07/essence-of-gooseberry-pie.html). I also like making jam or compote with those delicious berries…



    • Gib says:

      Thought of them the other day
      and combed stors around here – – – none.
      Years ago bought a can and had a deli
      bake a pie. I remember picking them as
      a child.

  3. I’ve never eaten gooseberries, Dana. All my knowledge of them comes from “book larnin”. That book is The Food Lover’s Companion.

    According to FLC, gooseberries are a tart fruit that’s common in Europe but rare in the US (no mention of Canada). Ripe ones should be fairly firm but evenly coloured (they’re usually green, but can be white, yellow or red). They’re ideal for jams, jellies, pies and something called a FOOL.

    Jeanne has first-hand knowledge, so maybe the North American variety is different from the US / European?

    I’m now very curious myself.

  4. danamccauley says:

    Okay, I’m going to leave these little sour pusses on the counter until Saturday and see what happens to their flavour. Then, if they aren’t sweet, I’ll bake a pie with them….more deets to follow.

    Thanks for the intel ladies!

  5. Barb says:

    My friend had a bush in her yard that she used to graze over with her kids. I figure they must have been kind of sweet for little kids to enjoy. Another friend uses them in jams with other berries. In defence of the people you bought from….I don’t know. Would they really pick them unripe and hope for them to bring repeat customers? That’s hard to understand.

  6. hshaw says:

    Ripe gooseberries are purple. They are traditionally picked green because they make better pies and preserves that way — ripe ones lose most of their acidity and taste closer to mulberries, which are sweet but boring.

    When I had bushes in Virginia, I picked them as they began to blush purple, and they were excellent.

    Not sure if gooseberries ripen off the bush, so you might have to just make a pie…

  7. Sue says:

    No doubt you’ve already done an Internet search and discovered that gooseberries can be different colors depending on the type. I’ve only known gooseberries to be tart, and used in recipes where sugar is added. I think that before prepared pectin was widely available gooseberries were often added to jams and jellies because I think they’re high in pectin. Old church cookbooks from the upper midwest region of the United States often have gooseberry dessert and jam recipes in them. No doubt they will make good pie. Good luck!!

  8. Okay, another question for you. What’s the difference between those and a cape gooseberry? I love the cape gooseberry, tartness and all.

  9. danamccauley says:

    Cape Gooseberries are yummy! They seem to be a completely different fruit, though. Shall look it up and get back to you Cheryl A.

  10. Andrea says:

    I saw that you liked Suzanne’s chutney suggestion on Twitter. I’m thinking that you’d want to make them with something sweet, the way one pairs rhubarb with something sweet.

    I have dried gooseberries that I liked when I sampled them but then were too sour. I should take my own advice about adding them to something sweet. (I’m not so into the chutney.) They’re super healthy.

  11. I made a delicious fast gooseberry curry last year ( http://feedingmaybelle.blogspot.com/2008/08/gooseberry-curry.html ) . They are slightly different than the ones found in India but look up gooseberries and curry and you should find recipes.

    Then I made jam though added pink peppercorns. (Didn’t blog that one) and a tart (didn’t blog that.)

    My mother loves gooseberries so I snag them when I get them.

  12. danamccauley says:

    You guys are fantastic! I think I see a chutney in my future. Or some jam…still pondering.

  13. danamccauley says:

    Okay, so here’s what I’ve learned about cape gooseberries and these gooseberries:

    Cape gooseberries grow in tropical climates best and they always have the papery calyx around them when ripe. Its botanical name is Physalis peruviana.

    Conversely, the gooseberries that grow here in Ontario and other parts of Canada and Northern Europe grow on straggly bushes and the fruit is free from any covering. It’s botanical name is Ribes uva-crispa.

    Doesn’t look like they are related at all.

  14. danamccauley says:

    Here’s a great blog post by award winning cookbook author Jennifer McLagan on gooseberries:


  15. Hella Stella says:

    I grow those in my backyard, but I don’t eat them… Too sour! They can be turned into jams and pies quite nicely though, as a few people mentioned.

  16. Kevin says:

    My grandparents had a gooseberry bush and I remember eating them right there in the backyard. I look forward to picking some up every year to bring back the memories. I normally just eat them plain but they also work in much the same way that rhubarb does. I like them in a sweet crumb cake to balance out their tartness.

  17. sco says:

    had to chime in. i have around 15-20 different varieties of currants and gooseberries. in the US, so probably Canada as well, the gooseberries tend to be picked while green (unripe). in this form they are best used in cooked recipes. if allowed to ripen, depending on variety, they develop a deep red/purple/yellow color. i have one variety that looks the same all through its life, and can be a puckery experience when eating them from the bush as there are always a few unripe hiding in the masses.
    anyway, when ripe, again depending on variety, they can be sweet with little interest, to very tasty. i have one plant (dont remember variety) that is a deep purple when ripe and the berries can be best described as being like a plumb. very sweet in the pulp with a sour skin.
    i should probably go pick some now, as there are tons on the ground, and only a couple quarts left on each bush.

    if anyone has any good recipes for spiced or pickled ripe gooseberries, i would be forever in debt. the only recipes ive gotten on web search are for green ones. and a guy only needs so much jelly 🙂

  18. Kathryn says:

    I have never cooked or eaten gooseberries. What I do know about gooseberries is my English-born Grandmother’s usage. She used gooseberry to describe a person who was a spoiler, for example when one sister moves in on the other sister’s boyfriend. That’s what comes to my mind whenever I see gooseberries!

  19. marc mck says:

    Cape gooseberries can easily be grown here in southern ontario, Fonthill, specifically. Same as ground cherries, in fact, but bigger. Caution though, they self-seed year after year. I grow them along with their close cousins tomatillos.

  20. Montrealer says:

    I’ve never eaten them raw, but they’re great in jam and in gooseberry fool (gooseberry puree and whipped cream)!

  21. JoJo says:

    Like what you did. Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year !

  22. Hiru Ranka says:

    Interesting comments from all, just to add some.
    Thee are different types of gooseberries, in the west they are mostly from bushes and are picked and eaten when ripe. In the east, the Indian gooseberry are picked raw from full grown trees. The Indian gooseberry is considered in Ayurveda as the foundation element and is used in almost every treatment.
    Ayurveda recognizes 6 tastes : salty, bitter, sweet, sour, spicy, astringent (this word is the literal translation as I could not find a better alternative), the Indian gooseberry has 5 of the 6 tastes.
    It is considered the single most concentrated source of vitamin C, one Indian gooseberry is equivalent to 30 oranges!
    It has many health benefits, check out the web, it antioxidant, anti ageing and other properties.
    You can eat it raw, it you could stand the taste, alternately you could get powder and make a drink from it, or simply pickle it…..remember that once you cook it, the benefits of vitamin C are lost.
    I would encourage everyone here to explore this wonder fruit on the web and in your diet as in Ayurveda it is believed to come from the gods directly and helps in longevity if eaten once a day, just one fruit a day !!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: