What's new? A key innovation in recent years are that growers are harvesting modern varieties of red dessert gooseberry. These are much sweeter than older and tarter varieties of green gooseberry - eating more like a grape, but better!
"For me, red gooseberries are almost a totally different ingredient – very unsimilar flavour profiles and the texture," confirms chef Dan Murray at Rovi, the latest restaurant from Yotam Ottolenghi. Here they are serving a snacky dish of carrot jerky with gooseberry boshi, smoked labneh and chilli.
- Gooseberries are among the first soft fruit of year, with a season that runs roughly from mid June to the end of July.
- They are perennial plants called Ribes uva-crispa in the Grossulariaceae family, so are related to currants. They are deep rooting plants with a productive life of around a decade.
- Gooseberries are a traditional British fruit which grow well in our temperate climate. However, in recent decades they declined in popularity and face competition from sweeter rivals such as the blueberry.
- The tart culinary fruit are not enjoyable for eating out of hand and require some cooking, for example in sauces, ice cream, crumbles and fools.
Growing and harvesting
"There are culinary and dessert varieties - we grow 5 or 6 varieties," explains Robert Wheeler from Tibbs Farm, a fruit grower managing around 500 acres. "Some of the culinary varieties turn into dessert."
He sends his gooseberries to wholesaler H G Walker. "We are a traditional grower but don’t need to please a supermarket," he says.
His bushes are grown in a bush form; some growers use wirework. Pruning in winter is key as the best fruit grows on new wood.
"Gooseberries have been a fruit of the past," he adds, "but I would take the slightly optimistic view. I would say gooseberry sales are up a little compared to 10 years ago."
Gooseberries pair well with flavours such as elderflower, sweet cicely, star anise and ginger. At time of writing, here's a sample of dishes in London restaurants:
- Mackerel rillettes with cured mackerel, elderflower, crème fraîche, cucumber and gooseberries at Chez Bruce.
- Coronation’ smoked mackerel, gooseberry chutney, nimki at Kriket.
- Lemon and elderflower cake with gooseberries at Spring.
- Gooseberry and elderflower coupe at 34 Mayfair.
Below is a dish from Hide - borage flower honey custard, gooseberries and elderflower with a bee pollen beignet.
This is short rib, smoked eel and gooseberry from chef Ben Harrington.
And here are preparations for a gooseberry and elderflower vinegar by food stylist Anna Shepherd.
The dish at Rovi used a gooseberry 'boshi'. Chef Dan Murray says: "A boshi is a traditional Japanese technique for salting plums for up to a year. The fruit is soft, broken down. It still keeps a lot of its texture but it's softer," he explains.