What I Do With Gooseberries From My Forest Garden

Gooseberries are far more versatile than you might think.

Close-Up Of Gooseberries Hanging On Plant

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I have a number of green gooseberry bushes in my forest garden and consider them an extremely useful addition. They grow and fruit well, even in the dappled shade below the trees, and do so very reliably each year where I live.

Gooseberries were once extremely popular plants for kitchen gardens here in the United Kingdom, but have somewhat fallen out of favor. One problem is that people do not really know what to do with the gooseberries they grow.

There are only so many gooseberry pies, crumbles, and tarts that you can eat. And most people do not enjoy eating many gooseberries raw. The good news is that gooseberries are far more versatile than you might think.

To help you understand how to use gooseberries from your garden, I am sharing what I typically do with the ones I grow in my forest garden. I have just harvested a lot of gooseberries and here's what I plan to do with some of them:

Make Gooseberry Juice

One of my favorite ways to use green gooseberries is as a lemon juice substitute. For this, the slightly under-ripe berries are best. I use it as an alternative to lemon juice or lime juice to add fruity acidity to a wide range of savory and sweet dishes. For example, I blend gooseberries with ginger, chillies and lemongrass and use this mix as a base for a coconut veggie curry. I also add unripe gooseberry juice to sweet-and-sour sauces. 

I boil a big pan of gooseberries, and strain the mix, to make the juice, then can it in preserving jars and process for 10 minutes. This is not a juice that you would drink on its own, but it is great mixed with other juices for an acidic tang. We cannot grow citrus outside here, so gooseberries make a great sustainable alternative. 

Beyond the kitchen, gooseberry juice can also be used to make an acidic hair rinse, a facial rinse good for greasy skin, or be blended with oatmeal to make a soothing and toning face mask, for example.

Make Gooseberry Jam

Jar of gooseberry jam, basket and organic gooseberries on dark wood
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We also really enjoy gooseberry jam, both spread on toast and baked into bread, oat bakes, and muffins, etc. We have had some fun experimenting, and making both green and red colored jams with the green berries. Boiling briefly, with less ripe fruit, yields a green jam, while boiling riper berries for a longer period will turn the mix magically red, due to chemical interactions. Making gooseberry jam could not be easier. Simply use equal weights of fruit and sugar, add a dash of water, and boil until the setting point is reached, before processing jars for 10 minutes. 

Make Gooseberry Chutney

I also make gooseberry chutney, with plenty of spice and onions from the garden. This makes a great condiment that you can use in a wide range of different ways. I use 6.6 pounds of gooseberries, 4 onions, 2 fresh bay leaves, 4 teaspoons of mustard seeds, 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds, 2.6 pounds of sugar, and 20 fluid ounces of apple cider vinegar to make a big batch that fills around 10 jars. Process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. 

Make Gooseberry Barbecue Sauce

My husband really enjoys this with summer barbecues, but it is a versatile sauce that can be used in a range of different ways. I use 3 pounds of fresh gooseberries, 3 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 medium spice chillis, 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar, 1 ½ cups raw sugar, 6 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger, and salt and pepper to taste. This fills around 6 pint jars. I top, tail, and blend the gooseberries, sauté the onions garlic, and chili in olive oil, then add the gooseberry paste and other ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes before filling the jars and processing for 10 minutes. 

Make Gooseberry Wine

Gooseberry wine is a light, medium-dry wine with a good sharpness that comes from the fruit. This is another recipe that works best with the smaller gooseberries early in the season. Use around 3 pounds green gooseberries, and the same quantity of sugar, 1 Campden tablet, 1 teaspoon of pectolase, wine yeast (a Champagne type works well), yeast nutrient, and water. This makes around a gallon of wine which will be better a couple of years after bottling. 

Of course, we also use gooseberries in a range of other recipes to use them up right away. But these are some of our favorite ways to preserve this part of our harvest.