Gooseberries are a delicious summer fruit that comes in a variety of colors and flavors. They're closely related to currants and can be green, yellow, pink, red and dark purple, and they span 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 on bushes and weigh an average of three to six grams but can vary in size — from a large blueberry to a medium-sized plum, according to the University of Idaho — though they're commonly harvested when they're closer to a grape's size. European gooseberries are generally larger than American gooseberries.
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, and 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, per the University of Kentucky's Center for Crop Diversification.
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.
Here are a few ideas on how to eat raw gooseberries:
- Add them to smoothies
- Toss them into yogurt parfaits
- Pair with cottage cheese and nuts for a filling breakfast
- Add them to salads for sweetness
Choose vine-ripened softer varieties when buying gooseberries for fresh eating. According to the University of Idaho, some sweeter varieties of gooseberries include cultivars with the names:
- Lepaa Red
Cooked gooseberries yield a sweeter taste, and they can be included in many recipes. Red gooseberries can be used in place of rhubarb in baked goods, while green gooseberries can be swapped in for granny smith apples.
Baked goods: Thanks to their sweet taste, gooseberries make a wonderful addition to baked goods and desserts. One classic British dessert called 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 fish. In these instances, gooseberries play a similar role to lingonberry, which is 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 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, while others require a permit.
The Health Benefits of Gooseberries
According to the USDA, 1 cup of raw gooseberries contains:
- Calories: 66 calories
- Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 15 g
- Fiber: 6.5 g
- Protein: 1 g
- Vitamin C: 46% Daily Value (DV)
The tiny fruit has 46 percent of the 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 protect the body against oxidative damage that's linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and some cancers, according to a July 2016 review 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.
- Canadian Living: 5 Gooseberry Recipes
- BBC Food: Gooseberry Recipes
- Exotic Fruits: "Gooseberry—Ribes uva-crispa, sin. R. grossularia L"
- Cooking Light: "What are Gooseberries"
- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: "Gooseberries"
- University of Kentucky Center for Crop Diversification: "Currants & Gooseberries"
- University of Idaho: "Growing Currants, Gooseberries & Jostaberries"
- BBC Good Food: "Gooseberry Fool"
- USDA: "Raw Gooseberries"
- Neurology: "Dietary flavonols and risk of Alzheimer dementia"
- Pharmacognosy Review: "Overviews of Biological Importance of Quercetin: A Bioactive Flavonoid"
- Food Chemistry: "Contribution of phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid and vitamin E to antioxidant activity of currant (Ribes L.) and gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa L.) fruits"