What Are Gooseberries?
Common throughout Europe, but almost unheard of in the United States, gooseberries are rising in popularity throughout the country.
Ripe gooseberries have a reddish-purple appearance and are the more sweet option, great for turning into jam or a fresh berry sauce. Unripe berries are a green color and bring a particular sour tang to dishes, meaning they're great for adding tart flavor to pies and other desserts. Available from specialty growers and certain grocery stores, these berries are about to become your new favorite fruit.
But why are gooseberries so hard to find? It all comes down to an old federal ban. During the early 1900s, it was realized that some gooseberries (and currants) carried a fungal disease that killed white pine trees. The federal ban was lifted in the '60s and the choice was given for each state to continue the ban or permit the growing of gooseberries and currants. Currently, almost all states allow farmers and home gardeners to grow these plants.
You may be asking yourself: if gooseberries are difficult to find, then why go through the trouble? Because not only are these berries delicious, they're chock full of health benefits. Gooseberries boast a low amount of calories while providing ample vitamins and minerals. One cup of berries provides nearly half your daily requirement of vitamin C, around a quarter of your dietary fiber needs, plus a hefty dose of vitamin A and manganese. Gooseberries are also touted as a possible remedy for morning sickness.
Where to find gooseberries:
- Local farms can be a great option to find these sweet berries. Check around at your favorite farmers' market to see if any are grown nearby.
- Indian grocery stores often carry Indian gooseberries (known as amla) in their produce and freezer sections.
- Some grocery stores carry canned gooseberries, which according to the USDA are very nutritionally similar to the fresh berries. Just be sure to avoid canned gooseberry pie filling or gooseberries in syrup, both of these will be packed with added sugars.
- Growing your own gooseberries can be a fun hobby. Gooseberries grow best in areas that are hot and humid in the summer, while being cold (around 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter. Before purchasing a plant, double check to make sure that your state doesn't have any growing restrictions.
How to use gooseberries:
Red gooseberries are ripe and sweet, but still carry a sour note. They are great in mixed berry dishes like jams or pies. These gooseberries can also be used to replace rhubarb in most baking recipes.
Green gooseberries are less ripe and more tart. Skip the Granny Smith apples in your next pie and replace them with these berries. Or go savory by adding finely-diced and sautéed green gooseberries to a batch of relish.