Guest Author - Hellie T.
Sometimes known as grosberry, feaberry or fayberries - gooseberries have been grown in England since the reign of Henry Vlll. Gooseberry juice used to be considered a good medicine for fever and in the sixteenth century the juice was thought to have plague reducing properties.
You can harvest the small, green gooseberries that appear in May to use for cooking. They can be made into make pies, fools, and chutneys. Gooseberry purée is a traditional accompaniment to mackerel but you can eat it with roast meats as well.
Some of the crop is left to grow on and ripen in about July. You can eat the dessert types raw.
There are many varieties to choose from golden, red, or green. One thing to look for is the varieties that are mildew resistant.
How to grow Gooseberries
Gooseberries prefer a sunny sheltered site so prepare their bed in autumn by digging and removing weeds.
Then dig the planting hole and put some well rotted compost in the bottom. With container-grown gooseberries, make sure that the surface of the root ball is the same as it was in the pot do not plant deeper.
Bushes should be approx 4ft or 1.2 metres apart.
Keep well watered until established and do not let the bushes too dry when their fruits are developing and ripening.
Be warned that birds like gooseberries - bullfinches will nibble the gooseberry buds in winter and birds such as blackbirds like the fruit so you may need to drape some netting over your bushes to protect them from the wildlife.
Gooseberries have sharp thorns so remember to wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting the fruit to protect your hands and arms.
You can buy Standard gooseberries which do really well in tubs.
Gooseberry varieties to try.
Pax is an excellent red fruited gooseberry. It is almost completely thorn less. The fruits are large, sweet, full-flavoured and it has the added benefit that it has excellent mildew resistance.
Greenfinch has excellent disease-resistance and makes a smallish bush. It has bright green fruits which are ideal for cooking.
Careless is a very well known variety that is used exclusively for cooking. It has pale green fruits. However it is susceptible to mildew.
Invicta is a good spreading bush that has quite large, pale green berries which can be harvested for cooking or later for dessert use.
Leveller - this is a dessert variety gives high yields of pale green fruit if planted in rich fertile soil. The fruits are large, oval and downy with good flavour.
Enjoy your garden