What Do Gooseberries Taste Like, and How Do You Eat Them?

Gooseberries aren't as popular as grapes, but they're similar in taste.
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Gooseberries are a delicious summer fruit that comes in a variety of colors and flavors.

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They are closely related to currants and can be found in a variety of colors, including green, yellow, pink, red and dark purple. Like many fruits, gooseberries have a range of taste that spans from tart to sweet.

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While they're not as popular as they once were, they're still commonly harvested in both European and American varieties, as explained in the 2018 reference guide ​Exotic Fruits​. Gooseberries are sometimes referred to as "Ribes" in scientific literature, as Ribes are a genus of flowering plants, some of which grow this very fruit.

Gooseberries grow bushes and, and weighing an average of three to six grams, are relatively small in size. Gooseberries can vary in size — from a large blueberry to a medium-sized plum, according to 2009 research from the University of Idaho — though they are commonly harvested in a size most similar to a grape. European gooseberries are generally larger than American gooseberries.

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What Do Gooseberries Taste Like?

Gooseberries taste similar to grapes, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, though they tend to be a bit more tart when eaten raw. Also like grapes, gooseberries are often divided into two categories: red and green.

Red gooseberries tend to be ripe and sweet; people seem to prefer red gooseberries to green when eating them raw. Green gooseberries, on the other hand, are less ripe and more tart.

How to Eat Gooseberries

Like most fruits, gooseberries are available fresh, preserved (frozen and canned), dried and even in powdered form. You might find gooseberries in some jams and baked goods, according to the University of Kentucky's Center for Crop Diversification.

Raw Gooseberries

You can eat gooseberries raw — they'll taste especially good if they're ripe. This means raw gooseberries will taste best when they're in season. The fruit begins to ripen from mid-June to mid-July, so you can look forward to eating sweet gooseberries in the summer months.

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Choose vine-ripened softer varieties when buying gooseberries for fresh eating. Some sweeter varieties of gooseberries include cultivars with the names Poorman, Captivator and Lepaa Red, per the University of Idaho.

Cooked Gooseberries

Cooked gooseberries yield a sweeter taste, and they can be included in as many recipes as you can imagine. Red gooseberries can be used in place of rhubarb in baked goods, while green gooseberries can be swapped in for granny smith apples.

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Baked goods:​ Thanks to their sweet taste, gooseberries make a wonderful addition to baked goods and desserts. One classic British dessert — gooseberry fool — calls for simple ingredients including sugar and cream (or sometimes yogurt) for a cool, summery treat.

Sauces:​ Another popular way to use gooseberries is in sauces, which pair with red meats, pork and fatty fishes. In these instances, gooseberries play a similar role to lingonberry, which are often turned into a sauce to pair with protein. Gooseberry sage sauce is sometimes used as an accompaniment for various pork cuts, while mackerel pairs well with a gooseberry cream sauce.

Jams and jellies:​ Gooseberries are also commonly made into jams and jellies, which can be extra convenient since many store-bought versions are shelf-stable.

Chutney:​ The fruit's tartness also makes it a viable chutney ingredient, used raw in Indian chutney recipes as well as contemporary ones. Mixed with coconut, chilies and curry leaves, serve a sweet-tart chutney alongside meat and rice for a sweet, spicy and savory combination.

Where to Find Gooseberries

Gooseberries grow on bushes and hang on their branches.
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Gooseberries are certainly not as prevalent as your everyday grape, so you might have trouble finding them in the supermarket. If you are lucky enough to spot them in the produce section, it'll likely be during the summer months.

You can look for canned gooseberries, which may be available at some stores. Indian grocery stores, in particular, may carry Indian gooseberries — which are called amla — in their produce sections and freezers. These tend to be more tart than American gooseberries.

You can also check for gooseberries at your local farmers' markets (also in the summertime) and farm stands.

Yes, Gooseberries Are Legal

Perhaps you've read somewhere that gooseberries are illegal. While this is no longer accurate, there is some truth to the claim, which, if nothing else, makes gooseberries seem kind of mysterious and cool.

In the early 1900s, growing gooseberries in the U.S. was indeed banned because the fruit was susceptible to a fungal disease called white pine blister rust, which had a deadly effect on trees, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

In 1966, the federal ban was shifted onto individual state jurisdiction, and most states chose to lift it. Some states still ban gooseberry plant production, however, while others require a permit.

The Health Benefits of Gooseberries

According to the USDA, 1 cup of raw gooseberries contains:

  • 66 calories
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 15 grams of carbohydrates
    • 6.5 grams of fiber
  • 1 gram of protein

The tiny fruit pack in some powerful health benefits. A 1-cup serving contains 46 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C, which supports the skin and the immune system.

Gooseberries are also rich in antioxidants and contain a number of flavonoids, according to June 2019 research in ​Food Chemistry​. Flavonoids are important because they help protect the body against oxidative damage that's responsible for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and some cancers, according to a July 2016 review study in ​​Pharmacognosy Review​​.

Similarly, people who enjoyed more foods with flavonols (a class of flavonoids) were observed to have lower risks of developing Alzheimer's disease years later, per a January 2020 study in ​​Neurology.

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