Thursday, June 17, 2010


It is June. That means gooseberry picking time!

We have both gooseberries and currants growing on the farm (thanks to my English-heritage grandmother who planted them years ago and allowed them to spread through the wooded areas). So every June the fruits begin to ripen, and it is a race to get them before the birds.

Gooseberries and Currants are somehow related, you can tell immediately by looking at both plants - the leaf shape and structure are the same, the conformity is very similar. But there is one big difference - gooseberry bushes are very very thorny, whereas our black currant plants are not. (We are not sure what variety/type of currants we have. They could be jostaberries) The gooseberries bloom with white flowers, the currant blossoms are bright yellow and smell very spicy.

Most of our currant bushes are planted up near the house, and frequently fall victim to wayward goats, who love the bushes (I'm sure they would decimate the gooseberry bushes as well, if they could get into the lower pasture where they are).

I actually don't care much for the sour taste of gooseberries (you have to add a lot of sugar to them when making a pie or jam) - however, my son loves them. (He likes more sweet-tart plants, like rhubarb and gooseberry). It is somewhat a family tradition in our household to go gooseberry picking at least once per year. It takes the full year to get over remembering how painful the previous picking episode was. *smile*

So as Steven, Amanda and I picked and talked, you could often hear "Ow!" "Ouch!" "Ooooo" and we weaved our fingertips between the thorny branches to try to grab the berries. This is not an easy task. Yes, I have tried it with gloves on, but you need the nimbleness and dexterity of a gloveless hand to have success. The berries hide in the underside of each branch and are actually quite hard to spot at first, but as you gently find a thornless spot on the branch to hold and lift to look underneath, you see loads of gooseberries ready to pick. This year has proven to be an especially bountiful year for everything fruit-bearing at the farm (peaches, berries, pears, etc. - all bloomed heavy and are loaded with fruit). We didn't get very far through the half-mile hedgerow where the bushes reside down in the shade of the osage orange trees, before our buckets were filling up fast, and our backs were aching from bending over to pick.

After nightfall, Steven sat in the living room removing the tips and tails (bits of stem on either end of the berry).

Tonight, I suppose, I will bake a pie.


Lynn Bartlett said...

We started a gooseberry and also a currant bush a couple of years ago, and last year we managed to get some berries from them. I just don't know what to do with them, since they aren't native to this part of the country. I tried making gooseberry jelly -- but with all the pectin they have it turned out like a rubbery mass!

Tracy said...

Hi Lynn! We often don't have the stamina to pick enough to make more than a couple pies - so I haven't tried making gooseberry jelly. But I do plan to try to can up some gooseberry pie filling ( so that I can make pies in the winter. I think I would prefer that over jam or jellies made with them.

Lynn Bartlett said...

Thanks for the website, Tracy! If we get enough berries this year I will give it a try.