How to Plant and Grow Gooseberries
This fruit is an easy crop to raise. They are now sweeter than years ago due to hybridization. Many varieties are available.
My first memories of gooseberries are of picking them with my Grandmother. A neighbor had a huge crop and offered them to her. We went in the early morning and picked several large bowls. They tasted a lot like grapes, but aren't as sweet. My memories of eating them fresh from my hand is that they were good, I don't care for sour foods, so they must have been somewhat sweet. Grandma was a big pie maker, so the rest were used for pies.
Gooseberries haven't been that popular in the United States until recently.In Great Britain they have been popular for years and almost every gardener has a bush in their garden. I remember years ago, our local newspaper editor had some in his yard and he offered them to anyone that would pick them. He didn't have the slightest idea how to use them. Now most people know what gooseberries are and what to do with them.
The berries are native to the US and many other countries. Later settlers from England brought plants from there and the wild native ones mixed with the new plants creating a better variety that although smaller are hardier. The scientific name for them is Ribes, Included in this same genus is black currants.
Warning! Do not grow gooseberries in areas where your pets or livestock may reside. They may be poisonous to them.
Gooseberries are hardy to US Zone 3. Now there are two varieties than can even survive in Zone 2. Zone 3 means they can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. The plants grow three to five feet tall and are just as wide. The branches have thick thorny spines and are arched.
This fruit is available in different colors depending on the variety. Some are green when ripe and others are orange or red.
Varieties to Choose From
Gooseberries are available in two different types - American or European. The European type has large fruit, but is susceptible to the powdery mildew fungal disease. If you ever dealt with the disease, you know it is hard to control. I would prefer to purchase the American type plants for this reason. They are a cross between the English variety and the American. You'll get smaller fruit, but you won't have as many problems.
It is best to find which varieties to choose for your area by contacting your local county extension. You should be able to choose from several colors and varieties.
How to Plant a Gooseberry Bush
The flowers are self fertile, so you can grow just one plant or many. They are pollinated by the wind and insects. Bees aren't usually attracted to them.
1. Find a spot that is sunny or has partial shade, that is neither too dry or stays too wet. Purchase plants that have at least 3 to 5 branches from a reliable nursery. If you'd like to get the plant in the ground right away, buy one in a pot.
2. If you are purchasing a bare root gooseberry, plant in late fall before the ground freezes or in the early spring.
3. Before planting prune back the tops to 6 to 10 inches. Be sure all the roots are good and if any are dried out or dead, cut them off.
4. Gooseberries can be grown as a bush in the garden or trained to grow up a wall or a trellis. . Use a mulch around You can even plant in a large container if you do not have space in the garden.
4. Place your new plants in the soil as soon as you can. You should plant them in a hole just a little deeper than they were in the pot or in the nursery. Plants should be no closer than 3 to 5 feet apart or rows closer than 8 to 10 feet together. Tamp the soil around the plants.
5. Consider using trellising as this will give the plants more air and they will not be as disease prone. If you don't have a lot of space, planting a large pot works also.
Care of Gooseberries
These plants like some sun and well drained fertile soil.
The need to be pruned or they grow out of control and become unhealthy at the same time. When pruning keep the center of the plant open, just leaving a few main branches. The video below will explain how to do this.
How to Prune a Gooseberry Bush
Have You Ever Tried Gooseberries?
When to Pick
Don't pick your gooseberries too soon. When they come off the stem heads easily it is time. Green gooseberries will become almost clear in color when ripe. You will know when to pick them then.
If you picked them too soon, try to ripen them yourself. This may or may not work for you.
Ways to Use Gooseberries
You can eat them fresh with sugar or use for pies, tarts and jellies. The jellies aren't as sweet as some might be used to eating. If you feel it is a little tart, add some cream cheese. It is said to taste delicious this way.
Following is a pie that you will enjoy using strawberries and gooseberries combined. .
Gooseberry Cherry Pie
1 1/2 c sugar
3 tbsp tapioca
2 cups fresh pitted cherries, uncooked
2 cups fresh gooseberries, uncooked
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
- Mix sugar and tapioca together. Then combine with cherries and gooseberries.
- Place in a prepared 9 inch pie crust made ahead.
- Sprinkle the top with extra sugar.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until fruit is done. You should test with a knife to see if the fruit is completely cooked.
Gooseberry Meringue Pie
2 cups cooked gooseberries or 1 No 303 can gooseberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp melted butter
.1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- Drain the syrup from the gooseberries, add water
- Mix together 3/4 cup sugar, the salt and flour. Now stir in well beaten and yolks and melted butter.Cook this mixture until thick.
- Remove from heat and add vanilla and gently fold in the gooseberries.
- Pour into a baked 9" pie shell.
- Make the meringue from the egg whites, cream of tartar and remaining sugarbake in a 400 degree oven until nicely browned.
- Cool slowly.