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Gooseberry

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This article is about the plant species Ribes uva-crispa, a shrub with edible fruit commonly referred to as Gooseberry. The berries are usually green, but different cultivars produce a range of yellow, red or white fruit. The flavour is usually tart but desert varieties tend to be sweeter. In a temperate climate forest garden, gooseberries perform excellently in the shrub layer since they are fairly shade tolerant.[1] Along with other Ribes spp. such as blackcurrants (R. nigrum) and redcurrants/whitecurrants (R. rubrum), some consider gooseberries to be the backbone of the shrub layer.[2] They are woodland plants in their natural state.[2]

Background Information

Taxonomy

Family: Grossulariaceae

Genus: Ribes

Species: R. uva-crispa (sometimes R. grossularia)

Note that the binomial name of gooseberry is almost always given as R. uva-crispa in horticultural texts, however according to some sources cultivated gooseberries are derived from both R. uva-crispa (European) and R. hirtellumW (American Gooseberry).[3]

Gooseberry is closely related to blackcurrant (R. nigrum). Jostaberry is a thornless hybrid between R. uva-crispa, R. nigrum, and R. divaricatum.

Common names

  • Goosegog (UK)
  • European gooseberry.[4]
  • Groseillier épineux.[4]

Etymology

Ribes (pronounced "RYE-bees") is Latin for "currant” (from Arabic rībās meaning "rhubarb"). Uva-crispa is latin for "curved grape".

Varieties

Early season:

  • "Golden Drop" -- yellow fruit.[5]
  • "May Duke" -- red fruit.[5]
  • "Rokula" -- red fruit. Some resistance to mildew.[5]
  • "Pax" -- dark red fruit. Nearly thornless. Excellent flavour ("desert gooseberry"). Resistant to mildew.[1][6]

Mid season:

  • "Bedford Red" -- red fruit.[5]
  • "Careless" -- white fruit.[5]
  • "Greenfinch" -- green fruit. Some resistance to mildew.[5]
  • "Invicta" -- green fruit. Medium sized fruit. Heavy cropping (June). Vigorous and spreading. Some resistance to mildew.[5][1][6]
  • "Keepsake" -- green fruit.[5]
  • "Langley Gage" -- white fruit.[5]
  • "Leveller" -- yellow fruit.[5]
  • "Whitesmith" -- white fruit.[5]
  • "Whinhan's Industry" -- red fruit. "Desert gooseberry". Especially shade tolerant and therefore more appropriate for forest gardens (according to Robert Hart).[2][5][6]
  • "Black Velvet" -- dark red fruit. Very good flavour. Resistant to mildew.[1]
  • "Hamamekii" -- red fruit. Vigorous. Good flavour. Resistant to mildew.[1]
  • "Hino red" -- dark red fruit. Fruit medium sized. Good flavour. Resistant to mildew.[1]
  • "Hino(maki) Yellow" -- yellow-green fruit. Fruit medium-large sized. Good flavour ("desert gooseberry"). Bushes compact. Resistant to mildew.[1][6]

Late season:

  • "Captivator" -- red fruit. Nearly thornless.[5]
  • "Lancashire Lad" -- red fruit. Some resistance to mildew.[5]
  • "(Howard's) Lancer" -- green fruit.[5]
  • "London" -- red fruit.[5]
  • "Lord Derby" -- red fruit.[5]
  • "White Lion" -- white fruit.[5]
  • "Anneli" -- red fruit. Vigorous. Good flavour. Resistant to mildew.[1]
  • "Gold Ball" -- yellow-green fruit. Good flavour. Resistant to mildew.[1]

History

Originally a woodland and hedgerow plant, the first selective breeding took place in the British Isles in the 16th century, particularly by amateur growers in the industrial midlands.[7] Traditionally, gooseberry was grown in orchards in the Fens (Eastern England).[2] Yearly gooseberry competitions with awards for the largest gooseberry took place in Lancashire,[2] and still take place in some UK villages.[7]

Behaviour

Range

Native range is Europe and North-West Africa.[8] It is sometimes debated whether gooseberry is native to the UK, but it almost certainly is.[7] Some gooseberries growing in the wild do represent garden "escapes" which have been bird sown.[7]

Native to:

Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

Introduced into:

Baltic States, Belarus, Central European Rus, Connecticut, Delaware, Denmark, Falkland Is., Finland, Iceland, Indiana, Iowa, Ireland, Japan, Kentucky, Korea, Kuril Is., Labrador, Maine, Maryland, Masachusettes, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Newfoundland, North Dakota, North European Russi, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Québec, South Dakota, Sweden, Tadzhikistan, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin

[Source= Plants of the World Online][8]

Morphology

Single trunked, multi-stemmed deciduous shrub.[1] Mature height 1-1.5m and similar spread.

Leaves are 3 or 4 lobed and have blunt toothed margins.[7]

Flowers are green-white,[1] or green-red and drooping.[7]

Fruit are grape sized but more rounded.[7] They are usually hairy.[7] Most are green, but some cultivars are red, yellow or white.[5] Bushes will crop for about 25 years.[1]

Growth Habit

The roots are shallow but spread laterally to a significant degree.[9]

Reproduction

Hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).[10] All gooseberry varieties are self fertile (one plant can pollinate itself and fruit by itself).[1][5] Flowers in March - May.[10] Flowers fairly resistant to frost.[1] Bee & insect pollinated.[1][10] Vegetative reproduction also occurs by suckers.

Cultivation: Site Selection

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 5,[1] (4-8).[10] zone (UK) 5.[10] Not frost tender.[10]

Soil Type

Slight preference for heavy soils, and moist but well drained soils, but can thrive in almost any soil.[9][10]

Soil pH

pH 6-8.[9] Consider adding some lime if the pH is less than 6.[9]

Shade Preference

Full sun.[1] Unless summer temperatures are high, in which case some shade is desirable.[5]

Shade Tolerance

Tolerates quite a lot of shade.[1] Under shaded conditions it tends to be more "leggy", fruiting higher up.[1]

Aspect

Exposure

Fairly sheltered.[6]

Cultivation: Techniques

Overall, gooseberries are quite easy to grow.[11] Typically purchased from suppliers as bare-rooted or potted bushes. Advised times to plant range from: winter,[1] or autumn-winter,[9] or autumn to spring.[11] Plant when the weather and soil are favourable,[11] i.e. not during frost and not straight after heavy rain. To prepare the site, one method is to dig deeply and mix manure or compost in the top layer, over a wide area (gooseberry has shallow, lateral spreading roots).[9]

Bushes and standard trained plants should be spaced 90cm[6] to 1.5m apart.[9] As cordons, gooseberries should be spaced 30cm[9] to 45cm[6] apart (in the row). With the deep bed method, the spacing can be reduced to 1.2m.[9]

Gooseberries are good for small gardens since they fruit heavily and do not take a lot of space (particularly if trained as cordons), and can also be used to utilise shaded areas.[9] Gooseberries can even crop fairly well in a tub, e.g. on a patio.[6]

In a temperate climate forest garden, gooseberries perform excellently in the shrub layer since they are quite shade tolerant.[1] Along with other Ribes spp. such as blackcurrants (R. nigrum) and redcurrants/whitecurrants (R. rubrum), some consider gooseberries to be the backbone of the shrub layer.[2] They are woodland plants in their natural state.[2] Some even state that gooseberry is one of the most useful plants for the shrub layer (UK).

Propagation

  • Hardwood cuttings: take cuttings in late autumn and place them in outdoors nursery bed.[1]
  • Mounding: one method of obtaining many rooted plants for transplanting is to hard prune an old bush to within 30cm of the ground in early spring. This encourages new shoots. In midsummer, heap a mound of earth and compost around the bush so that only the tips of the new shoots are visible. In autumn the new canes will have rooted and can be carefully removed from the rest of the plant.[9]

Maintenance

  • Mulch: mulch generously in spring with manure,[11] ideally well rotted manure.[5]
  • Weeding: avoid using a hoe since the roots are shallow.[11]

Watering

Pruning

Gooseberry can be grown as a bush, cordons (single, double or triple), fan, or standard,[11][12]

  • Bush: keep centre of the bush form open to prevent stagnant air and easy access to fruit.[11]
  • Cordon: when trained as a cordon, gooseberries take up minimal space,[9] and it is easier to harvest the fruit without injury.[11] This can be done by tying them to stakes which are supported by horizontal wires.[11]
  • Standard: a gooseberry cultivar is grafted onto a vigorous American ribes stock (e.g. R. divaricatum or R. odoratumW),[5] of approximately 1-1.2m height.[12] The rootstock takes about 3 years to create, or it can be brought ready made from a supplier. Stake firmly for support. Formative pruning of the grafted cultivar is then carried out in the same was as a for a bush, although side shoots on the trunk must be rubbed out.[12]

Problems

Overall, gooseberry is not prone to pests and diseases.[11]

  • Gooseberry Mildew (also termed American Gooseberry Mildew or Powdery Mildew): this can be the main problem facing gooseberries.[11]first sign is white, talcum powder-like felt covering young leaves and shoots. Berries have a brown covering.[9] Powder can be wiped off fruit and they are still edible.[6] Do not give bushes too much nitrogen to prevent it. Too much nitrogen promotes soft, easily infected growth.[6] Remove and burn any affected shoots (after picking any fruit they bear).[9] One method is to spray with a mixture of soft soap (228g), washing soda (500g) and water (23 litres), and again during flowering and again when fruit is set.[9] Best prevention is good pruning technique to allow circulation of air through the bush.[11] Or to grow resistant varieties. The RHS website has a dedicated article on Gooseberry Mildew: [1]
  • Gooseberry Sawfly: these are dull, khaki (green and black spotted, yellow tailed), small (up to 2.5cm) caterpillars.[6][9] They can reproduce 3 times in a single growing season and a bad infestation can eat every leaf from a gooseberry bush.[9] They are found usually on the underside of leaves from early May to late summer.[6] If not spraying,[9] then they have to picked off by hand.[6] The RHS website has a dedicated article on gooseberry sawfly: [2]
  • Red Spider Mite: Tiny red mites gather on leaves, which will turn bronze with a white underside, and eventually dry up and die. Use a jet of water to dislodge them.[9]
  • Birds: birds may strip off new buds in spring.[11] Green "cooking" gooseberry are not normally taken by birds. Red "desert" varieties may be taken however,[6] consider netting or a fruit cage to protect ripening fruit.
  • Magpie Moth: (Abraxas grossulariataW) the caterpillar of this moth is black, white and orange spotted. As with sawfly they can defoliate entire bushes so need to be removed by hand. Usually occur in May and June.[6]
  • White pine blister rust: (Cronartium ribicolaW) as most Ribes spp, the gooseberry is telial hostW for this pathogenic fungus. White pine blister rust was accidentally introduced into the US, and can cause serious damage to American white pines which have little genetic resistance. Gooseberry cultivation is illegal in some areas of the USA (e.g. Maine). Some European and Asian white pines (e.g. Macedonian Pine, Swiss Pine, Blue Pine) are mostly resistant to the disease, having co-evolved with the pathogen. Infected Ribes spp may show chlorotic (yellow) leaf spots and the telia appear as orange "pustules" on the underside of the leaf, but are otherwise not significantly impacted.

Harvest

In the wild, gooseberries can be found scattered in woods and hedgerows in most of Europe.[7] Wild gooseberries fruit from early July onward.[7] Wild gooseberries are often less than 1cm diameter, while cultivars can be up to 3cm in diameter.[10]

Harvest can begin before the fruit are fully ripe.[11] Acidic, green gooseberries can be harvested in May but they need to be cooked.[1]

Once fully ripe, fruit can be eaten raw.

Pick the fruit with some stalk left attached (remove before storing).[11] One method of quickly harvesting gooseberries is to pull the branches through your hand while wearing a thick glove. Catch the fruit in a sheet. To separate the fruit from fallen leaves and thorns etc, place the contents of the sheet down a board which allows the round fruit to roll down into a container.[9]

For cultivated varieties, yield is about 4kg per year per bush under full sun conditions.[1] Yield is reduced in shade.[1]

Preservation

Fresh fruit will store for only 1-2 weeks.[1] Can be frozen, bottled, pickled or made into jam or other preserves (see: Uses).[11]

  • Freeze: To freeze fresh, wash then top and tail the gooseberries and freeze them in resealable plastic bags.[13] Alternatively can be frozen as a puree after stewing and sieving.[13]
  • Bottle: This was very common before freezers. Strong bottling jars (either screw topped or clip jars, with rubber sealing rings) are heated to a high temperature for long enough to kill bacteria, yeasts and fungi and stop enzymatic activity. The jars are sealed at heat to prevent contamination with micro-organisms. Bottles can be heated either in a large pan of water or in the oven.[13] Top and tail the fruit first. If heating by water, heat to simmering (88°C) in 30 min, then hold this temp for another 2 min. If heating by oven, heat at 150°C for 40 min (up to 2kg fruit) or 60 min (up to 5kg fruit).[13]

Uses

  • Alcoholic Beverages -- See: Making fruit, vegetable and flower wines#Berry Wines for several gooseberry wine recipes (The Household Cyclopedia, 1881).
  • Jam -- Gooseberries are high in pectin and are useful to add to low pectin fruits which would otherwise not set easily when making jam.[14] Can also be the sole fruit ingredient in a gooseberry jam. Wash, then top and tail. Heat in water and simmer until tender. Continue simmering and stirring until a thick pulp. Add sugar. Stir and boil hard until set.[13]
  • Jelly
  • Fruit leather -- pulp needs thickening.[1]
  • Sauces -- e.g. chutney
  • Pies

Secondary uses:

  • Bee plant[1]
  • Leaves -- young, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads (in small quantities due to toxicity).[10]

Cooking

  • Gooseberry Pie[7]
  • Gooseberry Fool, a traditional English desert.[7]
  • Fennel and Gooseberry sauce for mackerel.[7]
  • Gooseberry Chutney[13]

Nutritional Values

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 Crawford, M (2016). Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops. Green Books. ISBN 9781900322621.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Hart, R (2019). Forest gardening : rediscovering nature and community in a post industrial age. Green Books. ISBN 9781900322027.
  3. Ribes (efloras).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ribes uva-crispa (efloras).
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 Brickell, C; Royal Horticultural Society (2012). Encyclopedia of Gardening. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781409364658.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 Titchmarsh, A (2008). The kitchen gardener : grow your own fruit and veg. London BBC. ISBN 9781846072017.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Mabey, R (2012). Food For Free. HarperCollins. ISNB 9780007183036.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ribes uva crispa (Plants of the World Online).
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 9.16 9.17 9.18 9.19 Seymour, M (2014). The New Self-Sufficient Gardener: The complete illustrated guide to planning, growing, storing and preserving your own garden produce. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781409346784.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 Ribes uva-crispa - L. (Plants for a Future).
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 11.14 11.15 Bird, R (2011). A practical guide to growing vegetables, fruit & herbs. Hermes House. ISBN 9781843098324.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Brickell, C; Joyce, D (1996). The Royal Horticultural Society pruning & training : a fully illustrated plant-by-plant manual. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9780751302073.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Warren, P (2003). How to Store Your Garden produce : The Key to Self-Sufficiency. Second Edition. Green Books. ISBN 9781903998250.
  14. Crawford, M; Aitken, C (2013) Food from your forest garden : How to harvest, cook and preserve your forest garden produce. Green Books. ISBN 9780857841124.