Botanical name: Ribes hirtellum (American)
Small and firm but sometimes ribbed and translucent, gooseberries are a unique little plant-based food growing on relatively small, thorny bushes. Although their history is rooted in Europe, gooseberries were cultivated in Asia and Africa before the British began developing new varieties in at least the sixteenth century. There are now around 2,000 cultivars and two main gooseberry types: American and European (Ribes uva-crispa), which are larger and said to be tastier. They're from the same botanical family as currants, and grow wild and prolific in places like North America and Siberia.
Interestingly, this one berry comes in varying shades of yellow, green, red, or black, and can be round, oval, pear-shaped, or elongated. There can be tart and sweet berries on one bush, each containing a plethora of miniscule, edible seeds. Gooseberries thrive in changing seasons involving frigid winters and humid summers, and they're more shade-tolerant than other fruits.
The Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis, or amla) is light green and extremely bitter. The Cape gooseberry - sometimes called a Peruvian cherry - is yellow-orange and surrounded by a paper-thin husk that falls off as it dries. In the U.S., fresh gooseberries are usually ripe for the picking around July; red berries are generally sweeter.
Because ripe but not quite ready berries offer the most tartness, our great-grandmothers often made their gooseberry pies less sour by mixing in other fruits. Gooseberries are also excellent in meat dishes as a sauce.
Unfortunately, gooseberries can host a serious fungal disease that can kill white pines. They're actually banned from cultivation in some states. Gardeners are advised not to plant gooseberries within 1,000 feet of white pine trees or within 1,500 feet of areas where white pine seedlings are growing because of this problem.
Health Benefits of Gooseberries
Flavones and anthocyanins are compounds in gooseberries found to have numerous health beneficial effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Rich in antioxidant polyphenolics and vitamins, the fiber content constitutes 26 percent of the daily recommended value, which has the ability to prevent colon cancer.
Gooseberries also contain a healthy dose of scurvy-preventing vitamin C – 69 percent of the daily value, and nearly 20 times the C in oranges. And get this: gooseberries lose none of the vitamin C nutrition in the cooking process.
A wide array of other vitamins and minerals, plus protein, superoxide dismutase, and omega-3 fatty acids make this little berry exceptionally nutritious. A comprehensive list would include vitamin A, folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5 - for healthy adrenal glands), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and thiamin (vitamin B1), as well as the minerals calcium (to prevent osteoporosis), magnesium, potassium (to help balance blood pressure and balance acids), copper, phosphorus, and manganese. The iron content maintains good blood circulation and red blood regeneration.
All these compounds are meaningful to the human body, but in more understandable terms, benefits include diabetes prevention and control by stimulating the body's ability to produce insulin; strengthened heart muscles; antioxidant power for slowing the aging process; and cataract-correction due to the retinol in the vitamin A. Gooseberry juice is also said to improve skin tone, prevent and restore hair loss, and rejuvenate for a general feeling of well being.
However, consume gooseberries in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
The Indian gooseberry - amla - has been used in traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda, for millennia. Clinical studies suggest it has a positive effect on Alzheimer's disease, but on prevention, rather than cure.
Another study showed gooseberries to block breast cancer cell growth and metastasis potential in vitro. They also may have anti-cancer properties, as well as cough-, fever-, pain-, stress-, and diarrhea-suppressing effects. To gain these health benefits of gooseberries, however, ways to make the sour berry more palatable is an ongoing conversation.
Gooseberries Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: One cup of gooseberries (about 150 grams)
Amt. Per Serving
Studies Done on Gooseberries
Gooseberries were one of four plant-based foods evaluated for their total phenolics and antioxidant capacity in relation to the potential management of hyperglycemia and hypertension. The major phenolic compounds were found to be quercetin derivatives in the black currants and green gooseberries, and chlorogenic acid in the red currants and red gooseberries.1
Scientists reported in another study that Indian gooseberries (amla) are used either alone or with other plants to treat such maladies as cold and fever; as a diuretic, laxative, a tonic for the liver and stomach, to fight inflammation, prevent peptic ulcer and dyspepsia, and aid digestion.
Preclinical studies indicated that amla has properties that can be cardio- and neuro-protective, prevent high levels of cholesterol in the blood, relieve pain, prevent anemia, diarrhea, and hardening of the arteries, balance blood glucose levels, suppress coughs, and improve wound healing. Not least, amla contains properties that can treat and prevent cancer, and warrants further studies for these purposes.2
Gooseberry Healthy Recipes: Gooseberry Refrigerator Jam
- 750g peeled gooseberries
- 125g dried apricots, finely chopped
- 15g fresh ginger, finely grated
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 fresh vanilla beans
- Add the gooseberries, chopped apricots, ginger and lime juice to a heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Using a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the tip of the knife.
- Add the seeds as well as the now empty pods to the saucepan. They add a lot of flavor and you can even leave them in the jars until the jam is all gone.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and continue cooking until the gooseberries start to pop and release their juice and seeds, about 5 minutes.
- You want to keep about half the fruits whole, so make sure you don't overcook your jam. If you are planning on eating the whole batch within a week, just allow the jam to cool and keep refrigerated in an airtight container, for 8-10 days.
- If you want to keep it a little bit longer, transfer the jam while it's still hot into clean Mason jars and close the lids loosely. Allow to cool completely and transfer to the refrigerator.
- If a proper seal forms, you will be able to keep your jam for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
This recipe makes 12 servings (1/4 cup per serving).
(From The Healthy Foodie)
Gooseberry Fun Facts
Gooseberry fool has remained a favorite dessert in Britain since the Tudors controlled the throne. This reflects a national hysteria over the fruit, especially since competitive gooseberry growing was a popular pastime up to World War I, when there were 170 shows in Northern England.
The Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society, established in 1800, is the oldest surviving gooseberry show in the country.
They're tart. They're wild. Despite these facts, the little gooseberry is quite underutilized in the culinary world. Gooseberries offer a piquant flavor that's still a favorite in England for jams, jellies, juice and the old "fool" recipe.
Rich in antioxidant polyphenols, vitamins, and other beneficial nutrients, gooseberries can vary in color, flavor, and shape, but all come with many tiny, edible seeds. They also come with 26 percent of the daily recommended value in vitamin C - 20 times that of oranges. A wide array of other vitamins and minerals, plus protein and omega-3 fatty acids, makes this little berry exceptionally nutritious.
Able to defend the body against infection, gooseberries are said to produce insulin, strengthen heart muscles, slow aging, protect the eyes, improve the skin, and prevent hair loss. Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, uses it for many cures, but clinical studies reveal gooseberries to have true nutritional benefits. The one gram of fat? That's unsaturated.