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Gooseberries - Ribes Uva-Crispa

Because most people think that gooseberries need cooking and so do 
not fit into the world of convenience foods, they are not, perhaps, as 
popular as they were in the past. This is a pity, partly because gooseberries have a very distinctive flavour, suitable for a range of dishes and sauces, but also because gooseberries can be eaten raw – there are some delicious dessert varieties. Unfortunately, these rarely find their way into shops, 
and so it is only gardeners who are likely to appreciate them – an 
excellent reason for growing your own.

Gooseberries can be grown as single
cordons. This is achieved by tying
them into canes which are supported
by horizontal wires.

Gooseberries are easy plants to grow, the only drawback being the thorns, which can be very sharp, but well-trained bushes and the use of cordons make it easier to get at the fruit without being torn to pieces. Typical gooseberries are green, but there are also red and yellow varieties.

Cultivation

Gooseberries require an open, sunny 
position, although they will take some light shade. The soil should contain plenty of well-rotted organic material. Plant the bushes at any time between autumn and early spring when the weather and soil are favourable. They should be set 1.5m/5ft apart. Mulch in spring with a good layer of manure. Avoid hoeing because the roots are only just below the surface and can be 
damaged. New plants can be propagated 
by hardwood cuttings taken in autumn.

Pruning and training

Gooseberries can be grown as bushes, 
cordons or standards. They are treated 
in the same way as red currants. Keep the centre of the bush open so that plenty of air can circulate as well as making it easier to get at the fruit.

Pruning a gooseberry

The basic aim when pruning gooseberries is to create an open framework. Establish 
a framework, first of all, by removing the basal shoots 
and cutting back the main shoots by about half in their first and second years. After this, cut back the new growth on the leaders in winter by about half and reduce the side shoots from these to two buds. Remove any damaged wood and any branches that cross or 
rub. Remove suckers and basal growth. In summer, prune the side shoots back to five leaves, but leave the main stems uncut.

Harvesting and storage

Start harvesting before the fruit is quite ripe. Such fruit can be cooked or frozen. Wait until fruit is fully ripe if it is for eating raw. Continue picking as the fruit ripens. Pick with a stalk, although this must be removed before storing. Store by freezing, bottling or by making jam or other preserves.

Pests and diseases

One the whole, gooseberries are not prone to a great many pests and diseases. The main problem is powdery mildew, and one way to prevent this is to ensure that plenty of air can circulate around and through the bushes. Birds can also be a nuisance in spring when they strip off buds.

Varieties

  •           ‘Broom Girl’
  •           ‘Careless’
  •           ‘Early Sulphur’
  •           ‘Greenfinch’
  •           ‘Invicta’
  •           ‘Jubilee’
  •           ‘Lancashire Lad’
  •           ‘Leveller’
  •           ‘Whinham’s Industry’
  •           ‘White Lion’
  •           ‘Whitesmith’
  •           ‘Yellow Champagne’