Gooseberries prefer a sunny site and appear to be happy in most soils. Plant 1 to 1.5 metres apart. Prune to ensure that the centre is open to allow air to circulate otherwise the fruit are subject to mildew. Gooseberries can be trained as cordons against a wall. Also happily grown in containers, the bigger the better.
Jostaberry (spineless) and Worcesterberry (spines) are hybrids of gooseberry and blackcurrant. The benefits from both parents but not particularly high cropping.
From Spring feed with tomato fertilizer, this has a good source of potassium. Too much nitrogen makes them grow leggy and an easy target for pests and disease.
There is a wide selection of varieties available. Some are large sweet and juicy dessert forms, others are smaller and tart – good for pies and chutneys.
Use a layer of compost to suppress weeds and ensure a damp growing medium. When the fruit are swelling ensure that they are watered.
Netting is often used to stop bullfinches eating buds in winter and a wide variety feasting on the fruits in June and July.
The easiest way of preserving the fruit is by freezing.
The classic use of gooseberries is in pies or tarts. Combined with an equal amount of rhubarb and less sugar than normally suggested but with a standard sugar/fat/flour topping the contrast of sweet/sharp is highly recommended. Adding ground nuts, usually almond, to any crumble top will give an extra lift.
Use gooseberries as a replacement for sultanas and apples in a chutney recipe. A chutney will start with browned onions and garlic, lightly roasted or pre-prepared spices: fennel, cumin, cardamom, cloves, chilli, coriander, ginger and turmeric. Add brown sugar or palm sugar and white wine vinegar with the gooseberries. For quantities and method please look at http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/gooseberry-chutney-recipe. It only takes about 20 minutes to make and is brilliant with cheese or cold meat.
An alternative less spicy recipe where the taste of ginger is more prevalent can be found here: http://www.allotment-garden.org/recipe/2017/gooseberry-and-ginger-chutney-recipe-2/
Gooseberry jam is an old favourite. Fairly high in pectin so it will set easily. Slightly bland on its own but with an addition of lemon or elderflowers will increase the depth of its taste. Again keep the sugar content down.
I am particularly fond of Ottoman and Morrocan Cuisines which feature fruit, nut and meat dishes with a mild spice mix. Bung a few gooseberries in toward the end of cooking is always a treat. Storing the fruit in freezer bags always means they are available.
1 June 2016