The gooseberry is a bush bearing small round or oval fruit. The fruit varies in size, skin colour and flavour and the skin may be smooth and downy or rough and hairy. The most common colour is yellowish green but darker greens, whitish green and reddish varieties are also known.
The European gooseberry, native to most of Europe and Northern Africa is derived from the species Ribis grossularia. It was introduced into England in the sixteenth century and soon the cultivation and cooking of the fruit became widespread.
In England, gooseberries are usually picked before they are ripe for the making of puddings, tarts and pies and for making jams, jellies or for bottling.
Dessert varieties are picked later in the year and marketed ripe.
In America, the European gooseberry is prey to a powdery mildew, but hybrid-izing with the native gooseberry has produced resistant varieties.
To prepare the fruit for cooking, wash, top and tail. Cook the gooseberries with sugar, allowing 4 to 6 ounces of sugar to 1 pound of fruit, in a very little water for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the gooseberries are soft. They can then be pureed or used whole.