The Gooseberry, known in Scotland as a “Grozer”, is native to North Western Europe and the British Isles, and is particularly suited to cultivation in Northern and Western Areas of the UK, where the flavour is said to be at it’s best. Even though it is usually the first fruit bush to flower in late March, frost and the lack of bees for pollination, do not seem to cause problems.
This is a surprisingly neglected fruit, even though it is so versatile and not often seen in the shops. It is an easy, reliable and abundant crop, suitable for all areas of Britain and it can even be grown in shady areas of ground. However, it prefers a moist soil and in the drought conditions that often occur in April, May and June in the West of Scotland, you may have to water the plant to keep the fruit swelling steadily. Take care not to overdo the watering or the fruit may split!
For the average family, one or two plants should be adequate. It really needs about a square metre of ground, as it can grow quite big. They are self-fertile.
Pests and diseases. Gooseberry Sawfly Caterpillars will strip the leaves in a trice, so use a spray as soon as spotted. Gooseberry Mildew can be reduced by keeping good air circulation round and through the bush, and choosing varieties that have some resistance. Finally, when the fruit is forming, net the bush and stop the birds. If Wasps become a nuisance, it is best to start picking the fruit.
Pruning. During the Winter, after the leaves have fallen so that you can see what you are doing, remove weak and crossing growth, before thinning the bush and any low-hanging branches. Otherwise the lowest branches, heavily laden with fruit, will all get covered in soil, and may be eaten by slugs and snails.
For the biggest fruits, you should supply plenty of fertiliser during the late Winter, keep the soil moist and reduce the number of young fruits on the bush. They will be ripe when they give a little when squeezed gently between finger and thumb. They will also have slightly changed colour :- mid green to yellow green, and light red to dark red, depending on the variety. To pick the fruits, lift up the tip of a branch with one hand and pick off the hanging ripe fruits with the other hand. You will probably have to pick over the bush several times as the fruit does not all ripen at once and you want the fruit to be really ripe.
They can be eaten fresh when very ripe and the sweet insides of the berry, sucked into the mouth.
They will store in the fridge for a few days and then used in pies, crumbles, gooseberry fool, jams, jellies, ice cream.
For long term storage they freeze very well, and can also be readily bottled.
Invicta. This is a very vigorous variety, readily available and produces big crops of pale green, large, sweet gooseberries. The plant tends to have a rather relaxed habit, with the branch tips touching the ground, when laden with fruit.
Pax. This variety has medium vigour, and produces good crops of medium size, red and very sweet berries. While the older wood on the bush looses some of the thorns, the young wood is still quite thorny.