Bushes, Free Food

Identifying a Gooseberry

My farm’s namesake.

This site’s namesake.

A tart to sweet, green to purple berry.


Through the years, I’ve met few people who know what a gooseberry is. I’m no longer baffled by this as I was the first few times I met someone who had not had a gooseberry bush in the yard their entire lives. So for those of you who do not know. THIS is what a gooseberry is…

Indigenous to Missouri, the gooseberry is found most often in shaded areas, at least around our farm anyway. The Missouri Department of Conservation website confirmed that the gooseberry bush prefers dry open woods and thickets. On our own, we have found both “male” and “female” bushes, the females being those that bear fruit.

The leaf of the gooseberry has leaflets with an irregular tooth pattern that all connect centrally. Dangling by a thin stem, the small green to purple and faintly stripped berry hides beneath the leaves. Thorns or spines are also found all up and down the underbelly of the woody stems to protect the precious fruit. And guys, those things hurt. So beware.

The gooseberry has a tart to sweet taste depending on when it is picked. If you’ve ever had rhubarb I liken the small green berries to the tart taste of rhubarb in that they need to be sweetened or have another fruit added. On the other hand, the deep purple berry is very sweet to the taste. I personally prefer a mixture of ripeness in my gooseberries as it means less sugar or no requirement of other fruits!

Aside from the edible berry, the leaves can be consumed as well. This was actually not something I knew until I read the MDC’s “Wild Edibles of Missouri.” They can be used as an addition to a spring or summer salad or can be dried for approximately 3 months to be used as tea.

Another interesting fact I learned from “Wild Edibles of Missouri,” is that the gooseberry is also known as the “feverberry.” Apparently, if you crush the berries and add 1 teaspoon of them to a cup of hot water it has some antipyretic properties. This means it can reduce fevers! I don’t know about you but I love me some natural alternatives.

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