The Humble Gooseberry

They might not have the fame and the glamour of the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of Keates but gooseberries loom large in the dense and tangled undergrowth of England’s rich and ancient culture. Reputedly the humble gooseberry was first noted in the fruiterer’s bill from the court of the English King Edward I (1276) and it was also mentioned as being cultivated during the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th Century.

By the 18th Century the gooseberry had become a Lancashire favourite amongst horticulturists and it’s hard to believe that in the 1750s there were 2500 varieties of gooseberry and 171 gooseberry clubs by 1845. The gooseberry has unusual names and several colours such as old rough red and hairy amber. They grow well in cool situations and as such ideally suited for England.

Popular ways to use the gooseberry is in pies, fools and crumbles but it can also be used in jam and pickles with one interesting recipe including mackerel with pickled gooseberry. Why not go to a gooseberry show in Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire or Warwickshire? Or for the more daring reader why not join one of the few remaining gooseberry societies still in existence such as the Egton Bridge old Gooseberry Society? Egton Bridge is eight miles from Whitby in the North York Moors National Park and is the setting for the oldest surviving gooseberry show in the country, established in 1800.

The show is held on the first Tuesday in August each year by the Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society. The 2013 show will be held on Tuesday 6th August and it is open to the public from 2 PM.