All over the country, gardeners are experimenting with blueberries, honey berries, goji berries and kiwi fruit but right under our nose is a delicious and completely under-rated fruit – the gooseberry.
Gooseberries were once very popular but fell out of favour as commercial growers harvested then green and unripe to sell for jam making and they gained the unfair reputation of being horribly sour.
RHS fruit expert Jim Arbury says: “Gooseberries need not be sour. Left to ripen fully on the plants they can be deliciously sweet, with thin skins stretched tight over a soft juicy centre.”
At RHS Garden Wisley we have the National Collection of gooseberries containing more than 165 varieties, many of them dating back more than 100 years. See our collection on BBC’s Great British Food Revival where fruit expert Jim Arbury will be interviewed and chefs will cook the best of our collection.
In the North West of England fierce gooseberry competitions used to be held in summer and prize gooseberries could be as big as a kiwi fruit! Some gooseberry clubs still exist and gooseberries were on display in the fruit competition at this year's RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.
Recommended varieties which are available to buy include:
'Leveller' - large yellow berries of great flavour, introduced in 1851
'Whinham’s Industry' – large berries which ripen to a lovely dark red
'Whitesmith'- pale green berries, introduced in the 1820s for cooking and eating raw
Some less usual ones which deserve to be rediscovered are:
'Achilles' – medium-sized red berries, raised in 1927
'Langley Gage' - very sweet, pale yellowish green berries, raised by Veitch’s Nursery in 1897
'Red Champagne' – deep red, sweet aromatic berries
'Yellow Champagne' – bright yellow, sweet fruit, first recorded as growing at Dublin Castle in about 1800