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  • Writer's pictureDawn Bly

Gooseberries are Great!

Canned and dehydrated gooseberry preserves.
Part of our gooseberry harvest (the part that did not go into the freezer).

My Dear Lovely Assistant:

Our family loves fruit! Gooseberries were hardly our favorite fruit before we started to grow them (the first variety we tried at a farmer's market was impossibly sour and the fruit was tiny). However, once we tried a sweeter, larger variety, we warmed up pretty quickly to the taste which, for us, is a mix of plum and tart cherry.

This fruit grows well at our Midwestern suburban lot, braving winter winds, crummy soil, and summer temps. It also thrives despite an amazing number of squirrels, rabbits and other hungry suburban wildlife. This native plant has been a perfect fit for our edible landscaping lifestyle.

In the spring, they are one of the first plants to flower on our property, so they receive extra-special attention from the early-emerging pollinators. This spring, when I passed by the bushes, they were literally SHAKING with the efforts of the local bumblebees' dining! Kind of weird, but neat, to "hear" your plants in the yard.

Annually, we take large quantities of fruit (last year, 100-plus pounds) from our three shrubs. Since gooseberry thorns discourage all but the most intrepid of birds and squirrels from rushing to beat us to consume the fruit, we can harvest more than enough for our needs, and still have plenty to share! We grow the Pixwell variety, and are very pleased with the taste, freezing, dehydrating and canning qualities.

These shrubs have thorns. Big ones! Visitors tell us how they have used gooseberry hedges to keep people and animals corralled to more desirable areas of their properties. We thought of installing a rose hedge instead of a staggered line of gooseberries and are glad we chose gooseberries. Roses in this area suffer terribly from the dreaded Japanese beetles, but the beetles seem to pass on our gooseberry bushes. The insects come out after our gooseberries are safely in the pantry and freezer!

Our bushes fruit on old wood, so be careful when doing your winter pruning not to overly-impact next year's harvest. We seem almost always to pick our berries the week of Independence Day.

Enjoy your berries!

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