How to Grow Great Gooseberries

comments (32) August 15th, 2009

Pin It

Lee_Reich Lee Reich, contributor
thumbs up 241 users recommend

Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.
Gooseberry forms a medium-sized bush. The plants require winter pruning to keep them productive.
Infestations of gooseberry fruitworm can be controlled by applications of a microbial insecticide that contains Bacillus thuringiensis.
Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.Click To Enlarge

Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.

Photo: Linda Wesley

1 | 2 | 3 > View all

Gooseberries have always seemed so British. Over there, no fruit lover would be without a gooseberry bush. Enthusiasts go one step further, joining gooseberry clubs and entering shows to see who can grow the largest berry. Contestants have been known to prepare by carefully thinning excess fruits from the bushes, and using such esoteric practices as “suckling” promising berries (perching a saucer of water beneath a berry just high enough to wet only its far end), and encouraging chickweed growth to increase humidity.

Here in America, however, gooseberries are not well known. But this has not always been the case. Early settlers brought European varieties to the New World, eventually hybridizing them with native American species.

The first hybrid, ‘Houghton’, debuted at the 1847 meeting of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Other varieties with American “blood” soon followed, and gooseberry growing and breeding in America was on the rise. The promising career of the gooseberry here was abruptly halted early in the 20th century when the plant was implicated in the spreading of a disease that also attacks white pines.

The popularity of this wonderful fruit is again on the upswing. This is thanks, in part, to the efforts of the International Ribes Association in spreading the word about gooseberries. Also, specialty nurseries have begun offering better-tasting varieties.

Gooseberries come in many flavors and colors
A fully ripened dessert variety of gooseberry is as luscious as the best apple, strawberry, or grape. In fact, the flavor of gooseberry was considered much like that of grapes in 17th century England, to the extent that gooseberries were raised commercially for fermenting into a delicate summer wine.

  Sources for gooseberries

Raintree Nursery
391 Butts Rd.
Morton, WA 98356

Southmeadow Fruit Gardens
PO Box 211
Baroda, MI 49101

Over the years, I have grown more than 40 varieties. Some, such as ‘Pixwell’ and ‘Mt. Ennis’, were tough and nothing more than sour. The ones I have kept are those whose tender skins envelope an aromatic, tasty pulp. These include ‘Hinnomaki Yellow’, which is fairly disease resistant, with berries that taste somewhat like apricot; ‘Achilles’, a large berry, mostly green with a blush of red and the taste of a well-ripened dessert grape, but with large thorns and high susceptibility to mildew disease; ‘Captivator’, a disease-resistant and almost thornless plant, with small to medium berries that have purplish-pink skin and good flavor; ‘Black Satin’, a disease-resistant, spreading bush, with small to medium fruit that is dark and has sweet, grapelike flavor; ‘Poorman’, a large upright bush that is disease resistant, with small to medium fruit that is pear shaped, reddish, and has good sweet-tart flavor; and ‘Red Jacket’, a large, upright, disease-resistant bush with medium-size, red fruit that has sweet-tart flavor.

The gooseberry bush itself has arching branches that give it a height and spread of 3 to 5 feet. The flowers are self-fertile and open early in the season, but are inconspicuous. Best production is on stems 1 to 4 years old. Gooseberries can be accommodated throughout much of the northern half of the United States if plants are mulched heavily to keep their roots cool, given some shade where summers are torrid, and irrigated where natural rainfall is deficient.

  Gooseberry recipes:

Gooseberry and Sweet Cicely Cheescake
Gooseberry and Elderflower Crumble Cake

Gooseberries are less finicky than most other small fruits about soil acidity and tolerate a wide range of soil types, except those that are waterlogged. Where summers are hot, bushes grow better and produce better fruit in heavier soils, which retain more moisture and stay cooler.

Plant gooseberry bushes 4 to 6 feet apart, the precise distance depending on the vigor of the variety and the richness of your soil. Since gooseberry plants are impatient to grow in spring, I set bare-root plants in the ground either in the fall, using plenty of mulch, or as early as possible in spring.

1 | 2 | 3 > View all

posted in: berries, gooseberries

Comments (32)

timonrooster writes: useful information...
Posted: 3:39 am on August 20th
charisbaker writes: nice one
Posted: 2:00 am on August 20th
ballidhoot52 writes: Ultimate
Posted: 12:26 am on July 27th
lyunmoss writes: i love it
Posted: 5:52 am on July 26th
DonnaCox writes: nice one
Posted: 2:11 am on July 26th
Rohit Kumar writes: i like it
Posted: 6:02 am on September 15th
Dallinlarsen555 writes: I like it
Posted: 2:25 am on September 30th
Dallinlarsen222 writes: nice
Posted: 2:55 am on September 27th
Dallinlarsen4 writes: great
Posted: 1:26 am on September 17th
Dallin_larsen1 writes: Ultimate
Posted: 3:14 am on September 16th
Johnychamp writes: lovely gooseberries
Posted: 4:53 am on September 14th
DallinLarsen writes: very nice gooseberries
Posted: 2:05 am on September 13th
Parkevenew writes: i like it
Posted: 3:09 am on August 20th
matthewtweedie writes: I like gooseberries
Posted: 12:24 am on August 3rd
MacGarnett writes: cool
Posted: 1:44 pm on June 9th
Andrewlang writes: nice
Posted: 5:07 am on June 2nd
Kavinjose writes: creative
Posted: 5:54 am on May 23rd
jacobgravers writes: good one
Posted: 12:44 am on May 11th
Davidecristiana writes: i like goose baerries
Posted: 12:43 am on April 29th
alliancelimo writes: i love the information about gooseberries
Posted: 3:31 am on April 4th
DavidDRatliff writes: Thanks for sharing....Nice information..
Posted: 4:50 am on October 30th
RolandSharon writes: Thank u for updating with this information.........
Posted: 5:20 am on October 27th
RaymondBMeans writes: Perfect information... Such a nice article for Gooseberries lovers...
Posted: 1:31 am on October 26th
mickysingh writes: very nice
Posted: 5:53 am on October 23rd
mickysingh writes: nice

Posted: 1:04 am on October 20th
ajayind writes: i had gooseberries plant its nice
Posted: 2:25 am on October 16th
prophc writes: thanks for this information
Posted: 5:46 am on October 10th
Lissa53 writes: good work
Posted: 5:44 am on August 12th
dfreyer writes: i have had two plants for 6 years. The second year they each had one berry. Since nothing at all. What can I do to help them? I keep dreaming of Grandma's gooseberry pie.
Posted: 4:00 pm on September 16th
Daylily1940 writes: I could be wrong as its a long time since I lived in the Adirondacks (a large mountainous area in upstate New York) but I believe gooseberries are banned there because the serve as a host plant for pine blister rust. This fungal disease kills pine trees but it doesn't go from pine tree to pine tree but from tree to gooseberry or a current bush and then on to a pine tree. Since pine trees are big business in the Adirondacks everything is done to prevent this. You might want to check this out if you live in that area and are thinking about raising gooseberries or currents.
Posted: 8:10 pm on September 14th
mastermud writes: My goosberrie plants are the same size they were when I planted them 4 years ago, about 6 inches tall. Any ideas why?
Posted: 9:47 pm on September 13th
JadaE writes: Awesome! I posted a question about gooseberries a couple of weeks ago, and this is PERFECT! Great info...I think I'm going to try growing them for sure! :)
Posted: 11:37 am on August 18th
Log in or create a free account to post a comment.