“Country life has its advantages,' he used to say. 'You sit on the veranda drinking tea and your ducklings swim on the pond, and everything smells good. . . and there are gooseberries.”
― Anton Chekhov, Gooseberries
The European gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) has long been cultivated for both culinary and ornamental application in the UK and northern Europe, but is rarely seen either at the market or in the garden in the United States. Many states still ban any cultivation of gooseberries or other plants in the Ribes family, such as red and black currants. What is this controversial fruit and why should you want it?
The gooseberry plant is a hearty bush with twisted, knobbly branches covered in spines. It grows to be 3-5 ft tall and has leaves with a beautiful scalloped edge and tiny flowers that have five petals and a distinctive curl. The fruit resembles a fuzzy grape with flower remnants on the end (like the bottom of an apple). It’s very tart when picked green with more sugars developing as they ripen. The green berries are ideal for cooking into jams, sauces, and desserts while the fully ripe fruit is perfect for eating fresh.
The origin of the name “gooseberry” is subject to conjecture without any definitive answers. Some say it is a corruption of the French term “grosielle”, the French word for “red currant”, making the name, literally translated, “redcurrantberry”. Others believe the name came from Germanic roots, while others say that it’s just a plant named after an animal without any firm or metaphorical connection.
Gooseberries are known to contain high levels of vitamin C, as well as other vitamins, fiber, and minerals such as copper and manganese. Foods high in fiber help to regulate weight and fight obesity by slowing the absorption of sugars and aiding in the elimination of toxins. The antioxidants (such as anthocyanins and polyphenols) and phytonutrients contained in gooseberries may help protect brain and heart health and reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.