The wonderful gooseberry

The wonderful gooseberry

Posted 27th Jul 2018

According to the RHS, it’s best to plant bare-root gooseberries between late autumn and early spring, though you can plant container-grown plants at any time

Be sure to protect your berries from birds as they are a particular favourite of our garden visitors. Then, harvest green, under-ripe fruits for making jams, pies, tarts and sauces in June, but leave some to ripen and swell, and you will have sweeter, juicier berries in July.

Bettina from Bettina's Kitchen says:

"The gooseberry is a wonderful little thing, reminding me of my grandmother as we used to pick them on my summer holidays. Maybe that's why they have also fallen out of favour in the last few years. You don't see them in markets or shops much, which is a shame as they are great in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Gooseberries are great when they are made into a jelly, a cordial or into a chutney or even a sauce. Their sweet and tangy flavour lends itself well to cut through flavours and add some freshness and zing to any dish! I think they are also great contenders as breakfast bowl toppings, pancakes or even simmered down with a dash of sweetener of your choice and dolloped over ice cream or made into a crumble. If you have not already, I would definitely give them a go - you might be pleasantly surprised by their versatility and flavour."

Knowing how best to grow your gooseberries is half the battle, and luckily, their growing conditions aren’t difficult to replicate.

Josh Eggleton, chef proprietor at The Pony and Trap, explains:

"Gooseberries can tolerate poor soil, partial shade and they seem to prefer cooler conditions so the further north you are, the more you will benefit from one of the yellow, red, green or near white varieties."

"The fruits of an established gooseberry should be ready to harvest from June onwards and by planting early, mid and late season cropping varieties, the chance of a harvest at different times of the year increases. Try to keep at least a little bit of stem when picking your fruit and try not to rip them off as damaging the skin will mean the gooseberries will not stay fresh for long."

Gelf Alderson is Executive Head Chef at River Cottage was one of the early pioneers of farm to fork philosophy, from his time as Head Chef at the 6500-acre farm at Killerton House. Gelf has been Head Chef at River Cottage for four years now and is responsible for creating the inspiring food at River Cottage HQ, using food that is farmed locally, sourced from the kitchen garden, or foraged from the surrounding area.

"I love gooseberries. It’s important to use the right variety for each dish, seek out the pink-tinged dessert gooseberries for crumbles, fools and cakes. The bristly little green gooseberries need sugar and heat to reveal their edible charms, so much sugar in fact that you mask the acid green tartness of the fruit itself. I prefer to use these gooseberries in savoury dishes and it’s a favourite paired with mackerel or pork where the fruit cuts through the richness of the meat and fish. A classic River Cottage recipe is barbecued baby gem with gooseberry and mint. The gooseberries are chopped finely into a salsa, with a little salt added to release the juices. This recipe for mackerel baked on fennel with gooseberries is a lovely way to use the fruit in savoury dish."

Gooseberries – by Rachel de Thample, River Cottage Preserves tutor

Gooseberries are like sharp, tangy grapes, loaded with vitamin C (twenty times more than an orange) and heaps of vitamin A which is great for eye health. I love embracing their tartness, yet alluding to their delicate hints of floral sweetness, by pickling them with fresh elderflower in a simple brine made with apple cider vinegar and honey. It’s a stunning combination, so easy to make and is absolute treat with roasted pork and crackling.

I’ve also been experimenting with fermenting fruit in honey and gooseberries are incredibly gorgeous this way. To make, simply rinse and dry fresh gooseberries, pack into a jam jar, add a little fresh ginger, lemon verbena or elderflowers and cover with honey until the gooseberries are fully submerged. Cover loosely with a lid, place on a plate and leave to ferment at room temperature for at least a week or up to 6 weeks, shaking or stirring the gooseberries through daily, and checking the flavour. Over time, the gooseberries will start to surrender their juices into the honey, creating a beautiful sweet and sour syrup. The berries themselves will soften as if they’ve been gently cooked and are delicious served whole over ricotta, finished with the drizzling of those gorgeous honeyed juices, or you can puree the honey-fermented berries to make a compote of sorts, which is terrific with grilled mackerel in the summer. Pop the honey fermented gooseberries in the refrigerator and they’ll keep for up to a year. They are a wonderful thing to delve into come autumn when the game season begins, and are especially stunning paired with smoked venison.

If we've tickled your tastebuds, we have four delicious recipes for you to try:

Gooseberry cake

Serves 10-12

For the topping: 

100g plain flour
80g butter
50g Demerara sugar

For the gooseberries:

400g gooseberries, topped and tailed
2 tbsp caster sugar

For the cake:

250g soft butter
180g self-raising flour
70g ground almonds
3 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar
4 eggs
250g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
150g ready-made custard


1 For the topping, gently rub together the flour and butter until breadcrumbs form. Stir in the sugar and 1 tbsp of water to make small clumps in the mixture.

2 Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan oven 160°C)/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Butter a 23cm cake tin.

3 Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar and 1 tbsp water and gently heat for 5 minutes until softened. Set aside to cool.

4 To make the cake, put all the ingredients, plus two thirds of the custard, in a large bowl and beat together until you have a smooth batter. Spoon a third of the batter into the cake tin. Dot over half of the gooseberries, then spoon over more cake mix, spreading to the edges. Layer the rest of the well drained gooseberries and then spoon and spread the remaining batter on top. Keep the gooseberry juice to serve with the cake.

5 Drizzle the reserved custard over the top and spread the crumble topping over too.

6 Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until cooked through. Serve with the reserved gooseberry juice.

Recipe courtesy of

Gooseberry, Lime and Chilli Marinade

8 mackerel fillets
1 stick lemon grass, bruised and broken up
175g gooseberries, topped, tailed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, halved and gently crushed
Red chilli, deseeded and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil 
2 tbsp lime juice
Lime, rind
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and black pepper
4 tbsp Pernod


1 Place the mackerel in a long gratin dish with the gooseberries, lemon grass, garlic and chilli. Add the oil, lime juice and rind, and seasoning, mix well and then add in the fish. Turn once to cover well and then leave for up to one hour.

2 Remove the fish from the marinade and grill or barbecue for 2 minutes each side.

3 Place the marinade in a small pan with the Pernod and cook only until the liquid bubbles and the gooseberries begin to fall. Then serve a little with each fish.

Recipe courtesy of

Gooseberry and Nut Crumble

Serves 4-5

250g gooseberries
4-5 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 whole stem ginger, chopped
75g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
50g flaked almonds
25g rolled oats
25-50g soft light brown sugar


1 Top and tail the gooseberries and put in a small pan with the sugar and ground ginger. Cook gently until the sugar has dissolved. Place in an ovenproof dish, stir in the chopped ginger and set aside.

2 Pre-heat the oven 180°C (fan oven 160°C)/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Rub together the unsalted butter and flour. Add in the nuts, oats and brown sugar.

3 Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit and bake for about 30 minutes until the topping is golden.

4 Serve with ice cream, thick cream or custard.

Recipe courtesy of

Gooseberry Jelly

Serves 4-6

200ml Belvoir elderflower cordial
200ml water
2 x 300g tins of gooseberries in syrup
12g of sheet gelatine (7 sheets approx 7.5 x 11cm)
Fine kitchen muslin
1/2 pin jelly mould


1 Pour the cordial into a saucepan followed by the water and the gooseberries with their syrup. Gently burst the berries with a potato masher. Do not pulverise them. Bring the mixture up to the faint simmer but not hotter.

2 In a separate bowl snap the gelatine into shards and cover in warm water to soak. The water must not be boiling as it will destroy the properties of the gelatine. Leave it there until well softened, 5 minutes or so.

3 Double up the muslin in a sieve over bowl. Pour the gooseberry mixture into the sieve and allow to drip through of its own accord. Use a spoon to press through if necessary. Do not press too hard or it’ll make your jelly misty.

4 While the syrup is still warm, pull the gelatine apart and add. Whisk until all the gelatine has totally dissolved then pour straight into the mould and cover with cling film. Allow to set for at least 4 hours.

5 When ready to serve, turn out the jelly onto a serving plate. Serve with double cream.

Recipe courtesy of

Feature by Lauren Morton

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