Bushes, Free Food

It’s Gooseberry Time!

That’s right… it’s time to pick those gooseberries, folks! We live in the Midwest where gooseberries bloom in April and the fruit is ready to be picked in June and all through the summer season. You just have to get to them before the local wildlife does!

Having a gooseberry bush in our yard has been handy for us to keep an eye on any late frosts’ effect on fruit production and to spot when the berries area ready to pick. I enjoy taking bi-weekly strolls through the yard, to monitor the growth of my produce, and when June strikes I know it is time to closely watch that gooseberry bush.

I like to wait to pick until the gooseberries are about pea-sized. But I don’t stop there. Picking throughout the season, I am able to occasionally pick some that have ripened to purple and get them ahead of the critters. Having these sweet purple berries mixed in with the tart green berries means less sugar required for jams, jellies and (more importantly) PIE.

Personally, even though the gooseberry bush has those treacherous spines, I prefer to pick gooseberries with my bare fingers. I find it is easier to grasp the tiny fruit, as well as to remove it without the stem in this manner. Other people prefer to use gloved hands and my cousin has used a blueberry picking device before with some success. However, with that method the chance of removing the berry without the stem decreases significantly.

It is easiest to pick gooseberries with a solid bucket or bag with a handle. Mesh or holes are not conducive to picking as the fruit is so small. And the handle? That’s necessary. I have found it most efficient to have both hands to pick since the fruit grows on the underside of the branches and, as I’ve mentioned, it has treacherous spines. Hanging the handle of my bag or bucket over the crook of my elbow allows me to use that hand to (carefully) grasp and lift a branch of the bush while I pick with the other.


Once I’ve had my fill of picking, I head back to the house to stem and clean the berries. I start off using my fingers to pinch the “beards” of the berry left from the flower off as well as whatever stems I missed. Next, I rinse the berries in cool water before soaking them for 2 minutes with Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak. After the soak, the berries are rinsed in cool water again before I preserve them in one fashion or another.

If you are short on time and unable to immediately turn them into jelly, jam, curd, or pie (my personal favorite) these berries freeze well. Before freezing, I simply dry them off and place them in a quart-sized freezer bag… the perfect size for filling 1 pie. Do you see a trend here? I really like pie.

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.