The alternative Irish summer fruit.

The alternative Irish summer fruit.Getty Images

Gooseberries are at their absolute best right now, so we've created this seasonal guide to help you utilise them while they're available. 

While most people think of strawberries as the fruit of Irish summers, gooseberries are fast overtaking them. At this time of year, gooseberries really come into their own, showcasing their fantastic flavour and delicious texture. 

What are gooseberries?

Gooseberries are delicious green-yellow berries that grow on bushes around Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. The spiny bushes produce fruit that varies in flavour but can be quite delicious. 

In terms of nutrition, gooseberries are very low in calories, working out at around only 44 calories per 100g serving. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C and water but don't supply a lot of other nutrients, with each 100g providing less than 1 per cent each of protein and fat. 

While gooseberries aren't native to the North American continent, they are now widely consumed there. However, Asian countries lead the way in gooseberry production, with Indonesia, India and the Philippines regarded as the world's top gooseberry producers. 

How to grow gooseberries

Gooseberries are really easy to grow and can thrive in different soil types, so they're a good option for novice growers. They're also very good for different-sized gardens, as gooseberries can grow on bushes, in small containers or up against a wall. The bushes require infrequent watering, usually every two weeks if it's dry out, so they're ideal for those pressed for time. 

Container-grown gooseberries can be planted at any time, but bushes should be planted between autumn and spring. They will be ready for picking from early July, but make sure to cover the bushes with fine netting so that birds don't get to the fruit before you do!

Read more: What's in season in July

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

How to use gooseberries

Gooseberries take some time to ripen but are prolific growers, so pick some of the underripe fruits in June to use in jams and chutneys in winter. The remaining berries will continue to ripen and can be picked in July when they are sweeter and fuller.

If you find you have more berries than you can use, gooseberries freeze very well. Simply top and tail them, place them in a ziplock bag and freeze. They're great to keep for use straight from the freezer in recipes for sauces, pies and tarts. 

One of our favourite recipes is this gorgeous gooseberry and white chocolate cheesecake from Kilruddery House and Gardens in County Wicklow. This dish can be served in slices from a pie tin or, for some extra elegance, place each cheesecake in an individual jar which is sure to wow your guests. 

If you have a glut of gooseberries to use up, our simple gooseberry jam recipe is the best way forward. 

Simple Gooseberry Jam

Makes three jars

  • 1kg gooseberries, topped and tailed
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 1kg sugar

Method:

  1. Sterilise the jars by washing in hot soapy water, then drying out in an oven at 140ºC.
  2. Place the gooseberries and lemon juice in a large pan with 400ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until the fruit is soft. 
  3. Add in the sugar over a gentle heat and stir for 10 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Don't boil it or the sugar will crystallise. Skim any scum from the surface as the jam cooks.
  4. Place a plate in a freezer to chill. When it is cold, spoon a little jam on to the plate and leave to cool a little. If the jam is set, it will wrinkle when you run a finger through it. If not, cook for another five minutes, then test again.

How do you like to use gooseberries? Let us know in the comments below.