Gooseberries are a very British fruit. Like our summers, their season doesn’t last very long, but there’s a lot to get excited about when they’re at their juiciest and best, which is from now until early August.
Unlike many other seasonal fruit and veg, there’s no fanfare about gooseberries coming into season, which we think is a real shame. Their distinctively tart flavour can be put to all kinds of good uses, and they are so well-suited to our climate that they can be grown almost anywhere in the county – a perfect local food.
The gooseberry is also one of our oldest native fruits, and its bushes are often found in hedgerows or around old ruins. It has been cultivated in Britain for so long that it is now difficult to distinguish wild bushes from feral ones.
The earliest, greener berries of the season are not sweet enough to be eaten on their own, but used in deserts or poached to accompany mackerel, they are delicious, distinctive and a fabulous local food to include in your cooking. Later on in the summer, the plumper yellow gooseberries begin to ripen: these can be enjoyed raw or in fruit salads.
If you’d like to enjoy gooseberries now, there are many delicious deserts you can try. Gooseberry fool seems like an obvious suggestion, but that’s because it’s a recipe that has been around since the 15th century, and has proven itself to be one of the best ways to use gooseberries ever since! The cream and sugar offset the tartness of the berries, producing a delicate flavour that’s the very essence of early summer.
One interesting property of gooseberries is that they can often be used as an alternative to lemons, to provide an interesting twist on dishes we’d normally make with citrus fruits. You can make gooseberry curd; an even more ancient version of lemon or orange curd; or a scrumptious gooseberry meringue pie, flavoured with elderflower.
Gooseberries can also be made into chutneys and jams for a delicious home-made treat that will last you well into autumn.
Visit your local farmers’ market now for the freshest supply of local gooseberries.