A gooseberry is a fruit that is not widely talked about, in part because it is not widely distributed or easily found. The gooseberry is grown best in humid, cool regions with chilly winters, and if you don’t live in a region like that, it is likely that you’ve never had one. But, after reading this article, you’ll certainly want to give them a shot; this little green guy (or sometimes red and purple) packs quite the tasty little punch when it comes to nutrition.
Gooseberry Culture and History
A species of ribes native to Europe, Northwest Africa, and Southern Asia, the gooseberry plant grows three to nine feet tall, with spiked, spiny branches. The fruit are rather small and light, and have a tart taste to them. In the past, they were cultivated to be fairly large – one or two ounces in size – but larger gooseberries, like most berries, seem to have a weaker flavor. Vigorous pruning is necessary, and the climate of the British Isles seems to best suit the fruit, though it can also grow in coastal areas of the United States, as long as it’s legal to grow in a state; the gooseberry plant is a potential host of white pine blister rust, which can damage white pines.
The gooseberry has some links to folk legends as well. Early pagan cultures believed that fairies would find shelter inside the prickly gooseberry bushes, giving them the name ‘fayberries.’ Written accounts of the gooseberry date back to 1602. European gooseberry production began in the early 1700′s, while the first American colonists began growing the ribes by the late 1700′s. Today nearly all large scale production of ribes is based in Europe and Russia, however the owner of a mature gooseberry plant will find that it can yield up to 10 pounds of fruit.
Health Benefits of Gooseberries
The acidic juice of a gooseberry has cooling properties which people in the Middle Ages used against fevers. Pregnant women also ate them to quench thirst, but theoretically, one need not be pregnant in order for their thirst to be quenched by a gooseberry. They are also conducive to a good appetite and are used as a remedy for cataracts, and are said to put a stop to a bad stomach ache. Gooseberry tea has also been used in the past to cure canker sores and as a mouthwash.
Gooseberries are also a source of vitamin C, containing 20 times as much as an orange. One serving of gooseberries (3.75 ounces) has only 40 calories and 4 grams of dietary fiber, helping to fight colon problems. Vitamin A can be found in the fruit, as can traces of pantothenic, which play a vital role in the health of adrenal glands. Relatively significant amounts (for its size) of riboflavin, niacin, alpha-tocopherol and folate are also agents of its strong nutritional value. Because of the potassium in gooseberries, the risk of high blood pressure can be avoided, as potassium also controls and maintains acid balance in the body. Research has found that gooseberries can also be effective outside the body as a relief for hair loss. Amla (gooseberry) oil, as well as gooseberry juice mixed with milk, are both said to help strengthen hair, stimulate hair growth, and prevent hair loss. Gooseberry has also been proven to control diabetes by stimulating the body to produce insulin that helps regulates blood sugar levels.
Eating More Gooseberries
Gooseberries are often used in desserts, such as pie. They also flavor beverages like sodas, water, or milk, and can be made into fruit wines and teas. Gooseberries can be preserved in the form of jams, dried fruit, and in sugar syrup. Of course they can be eaten raw as well or with a little sugar to offset the sour taste. Going here will also get you a list of some delicious recipes with gooseberry in them, such as Indian gooseberry curry, gooseberry pancakes, spiced gooseberry, and gooseberry ice cream. If you live in a coastal area, you may find gooseberries around as the weather starts to get warm, but they can always be ordered straight from cultivators out of state as well!