In recent years the industrial production of gooseberries in the UK has declined. However, there is a simultaneous boom in smallholders, allotment owners and gardeners cultivating these hairy oval fruits. At summer harvest, growers must navigate the gooseberry bush’s sharp spikes to get their hands on this neglected fruit.
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Most gooseberry varieties, including Invicta, Pax and Greenfinch, are ripe and ready to pick from late June and early July. Pick as required. Wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting gooseberries to protect your skin from the thorns.
Take care when harvesting ripe gooseberries as their thin skins may burst. Snip the gooseberries from the bush, leaving a small length of stem attached. This also prevents the skin tearing.
You can pick half the crop at the end of May or the start of June. These fruits will be more tart than the later crop, and so should be used in cooked recipes such as pies, jams and crumbles. Taking half the crop early gives more room for the remaining fruit to grow plump.
Late-fruiting varieties of gooseberries, such as Lord Derby or White Lion, should be harvested by the end of August.
Drape your gooseberry bushes in fine-gauge netting during the months of June and July. This will help keep birds from eating the fruit.
Ripe gooseberries are at their most flavoursome immediately after picking. However, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. Excess fruit can be frozen for use throughout the year. Place in polythene bags before putting in the freezer.
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