Goose in the gooseberry

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Marley Flinn picked gooseberries at her grandfather’s farm in Broadway, Pictou County. Submitted photo

Did you ever hear of the Gooseberry?  It’s a bit of an uncommon and unloved fruit.  No one really knows about it, but it is here in Pictou County growing on many farms.

 

There are more than 100 types of the berry, but few even know they exist. They are a cousin to the beloved red and black currents. The Gooseberry is easy to grow and resemble the size of a grape. It’s green in colour and when it ripens, it turns reddish to purplish.  It has a sour, tarty taste, but when ripping it open, it resembles the taste of the grape.   It has a translucent harry skin with little husks on the ends.

 

The name gooseberry came from the shape of the berry that resembles a goose head. In years past, fruit was named after animals, such as fox berry.  In the 18th century, there as a gooseberry craze in England and people even formed clubs and took growing the fruit as a sport.

 

This idea spread to North America and than to Canada. Some gooseberries were grown to the size of an egg and than weighed for the heaviest weight which gave Royal Englanders bragging rights.

 

Gooseberries are deciduous shrubs and great for a small garden. They are fast growing under normal soil conditions and they can get up to three feet tall and six feet wide. The plant is easily trained to grow certain ways. The buds perk up early in the spring. The leaves are alternate, single, deeply glossy dark green or pale to the gray-green.

 

The stems are thin with large sharp prickly thorns. The berries hang under the stems and when you pick them, you hold the thorny stem and pick from underneath.  You are almost guaranteed to get a few pricks from the plant when picking gooseberries.

 

This berry is used to make jams, pies, jelly and they are used in baking. They also have huge health benefits that many people don’t know about.  It’ s extremely great when it comes to dealing with your eyes.  The berries enhance sight. The juice combined with honey can be used to treat glaucoma and it also helps with reddening, itchiness and watery eyes.  The berry is also said to enhance nearsightedness.

 

The gooseberry is also proven to help people who suffer from diabetes. It is said to energize the band of cells in which the hormone insulin is needed.  Some people believe it also decreases blood sugar while other people say it fortifies and protects the heat muscles.

 

 

In India, they use the berry to tone the heart so it can better pump blood through the body.  It is also used considered to have anti-bacterial properties and could be used to safe guard against infections.

 

Gooseberries also have a high dose of vitamin C and can be used in a powder form with honey to help elderly patients increase their appetites.  Some people also believe it is good for skin and curing pimples and acne breakouts in addition to acting as a natural sedative that improves mental function, the reproductive system and is good for the digestive system.

 

This berry is in season now and will be for another month.  If you pick some, you can make jam by adding a little water and sugar and boiling it until it is cooked. Just make sure you take off the tiny husks on each end before cooking.

 

Having this berry grow in your backyard is a blessing with lots of benefits. All it takes is just one plant to have enough berries for jam or maybe a pie.  I hope we can all try this berry this summer and see how amazing it is.  Maybe you can even try planting just one bush in your backyard because they will grow just about anywhere.

 

- Cathy Wilkinson of Broadway, Pictou County, teaches 4H in the county and has a small hobby farm she tends to when she isn’t working as a corrections officer.  Her monthly columns will focus on farming community as well as 4H activities.

 

Organizations: Royal Englanders

Geographic location: Pictou County, England, North America Canada India Broadway

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