We have a very prickly gooseberry bush… it’s so prickly we have rather abandoned it and as a result, probably, it never has much fruit. This autumn I will prune it back and find out what nourishment it needs!

Are gooseberries still popular? I don’t know, but I love them! The juicy purple dessert fruit to eat raw, the yellow aromatic ones which are so delicious cooked or raw, and then the green sharp fruit which on the whole are best cooked… and then you can have them in pies or flans or under crumble or as jam and chutney, or as amber (cooked with butter, sugar and eggs) as a charlotte, as wine… gooseberry wine, palest of pale greens and slightly sparkling, gooseberry sauce for mackerel (in french they are called ‘mackerel berries’, ‘groseille à maquereau’) and of course there is the famous gooseberry fool!

Gooseberries have been popular since Elizabethan times, the BBC Good Food page tells me… so if they have only been popular since then, did they come from another country? Were they imported as so many other fruits and vegetables were? Well, apparently gooseberries are native plants to Europe, the northwest of Africa, the west, south and southeast of Asia.  However, it seems that here in Britain at least, they weren’t actually cultivated until the 1530’s so maybe before then they were small and bitter and not very nice, hairy little things growing on prickly bushes! There is no clear idea where the name came from, so maybe it’s just one of those inexplicable words!

Gooseberry amber

  • 1½ lb gooseberries, picked and washed (picked here means topped and tailed)
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 oz Demerara sugar
  • ½ gill water
  • 1 oz castor sugar
  • ½ oz halved glacé cherries (optional)
  • 6 oz shortcrust pastry, lining a pie dish
  1. stew the gooseberries with the Demerara sugar until soft then stir in butter, mashing the fruit (or rub through a sieve)
  2. stir in the egg yolks really well, pour into pastry and bake for twenty minutes (I wouldn’t do this, I would bake the pastry blind then pour in the fruit mixture)
  3. whisk the egg whites with the castor sugar then spread over the top of the fruit
  4. brown in the oven then decorate with chopped cherries

Gooseberry fool

  • 1½ lb gooseberries, picked and washed (picked here means topped and tailed)
  • ½ cup of water
  • 4-6 oz castor sugar


  • ¾ pint milk
  • 2 eggs


  • double cream
  1. stew the gooseberries and sugar gently until soft then rub through a sieve
  2. either – beat the eggs and milk together then cook over a bain marie or double saucepan, or bowl over but not touching a pan of boiling water, stirring all the time
  3. when the custard is thick leave it to cool (I would lay a buttered paper, buttery side down on top to stop a skin forming – you could use cling film)
  4. or – use the cream
  5. mix with the fruit purée

My featured picture is of our overgrown and unproductive gooseberry bush.



    1. Lois

      Hard pruning… thanks – I will wield the secateurs in the autumn (I have new secateurs which I wielded so enthusiastically I’ve got tendonitis in my elbow…)


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