Small1 and firm2 but sometimes ribbed3 and translucent, gooseberries are a unique, plant-based food growing on relatively small, thorny bushes.4 Although their history is rooted in Europe,5 gooseberries were cultivated in Asia and Africa before the British began growing the fruits as early as 1548.6
There are now around 4,884 gooseberry cultivars7 and two main types: American (Ribes hirellum) and European (Ribes glossularia var. uva-crispa.),8 which are larger, thicker-skinned and sweeter.9 Gooseberries belong to the same botanical family as currants,10 and were said to prolifically grow wild in Asia, and in the mountainous areas of Greece, Italy, Spain and northern Africa.11
Gooseberries come in shades of yellow, green, red and white.12 The berries can be as small as a pea or large as a small egg,13 have a round shape and contain a plethora of miniscule seeds.14 Gooseberries thrive in changing seasons involving frigid winters15 and humid summers,16 and can grow in areas with some shade.17
The Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis or amla) is yellow or pale green18 and tastes bitter or sour.19 The Cape gooseberry — sometimes called a Peruvian cherry — is yellow-orange and surrounded by a paper-thin, bitter and inedible husk.20
In the U.S., fresh gooseberries are usually good for the picking between June and July.21 Ripe-but-not-quite-ready berries may be tart, so it’s typical to cook them in sugar and not eat them fresh. Gooseberries can be the main ingredient in pies, jams or jellies, either alone or mixed with other fruits, and are also excellent in meat dishes as a sauce.22
Unfortunately, gooseberries can host a serious fungal disease that can kill white pines23 called white pine blister rust.24 Some varieties of currants and gooseberries were federally banned from cultivation in some states, with the prohibition lasting from 1912 to 1966.25 Gardeners are advised against planting susceptible variants of gooseberries and currants within 1,000 feet (preferably half a mile) of white pine trees26 because of this problem.
Health benefits of gooseberries
Flavonoids and phenolic acids in gooseberries27 are found to be beneficial against cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.28,29 The fiber content in gooseberries (about 4.3 grams) may decrease colorectal cancer risk.30,31 Gooseberries also contain a healthy dose of scurvy-preventing vitamin C,32,33 and are home to phenolic compounds.34
A wide array of other nutrients, plus protein, superoxide dismutase (in some gooseberry varieties35,36) and omega-3 fatty acids37 make this little berry exceptionally nutritious. Gooseberries are home to folate, and vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B5 (pantothenic acid that’s essential for healthy adrenal glands38)39 and B6 (pyridoxine).40
There are also minerals in gooseberries, such as calcium (to inhibit osteoporosis41), magnesium, potassium (to help balance blood pressure levels42 and maintain your body’s acid-base balance43), iron (for reducing the risk of anemia44), copper, phosphorus and manganese.45
All these compounds are beneficial to the human body, as they may work in slowing down the aging process (mainly because of superoxide dismutase46 and phenolic compounds47), strengthening eye health and reducing risk for optical problems like macular degeneration, cataracts and night blindness (thanks to vitamin A).48
The Indian gooseberry, or amla, has been used in traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda.49 Research highlighted that this gooseberry may help improve the management of Alzheimer's disease.50 However, more research is needed to confirm this link.51
According to authors of a 2015 Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity study, Indian gooseberry extracts were observed to help promote cell death against cancer cells and possibly, work as a breast cancer treatment. Aside from promoting anticancer properties,52,53 gooseberries were also linked to antidiabetic abilities,54,55,56 and cough-, fever-, asthma-57 and diarrhea-suppressing58 effects. Indian gooseberries can also be made into a juice that may help promote hair growth.59
Make sure to consume gooseberries in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts. If you want to know more about the nutrients gooseberries offer, take a look at the nutrition chart below:60
Gooseberries nutrition facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calcium 25 mg
Studies done on gooseberries
Four ribes were evaluated in a 2010 Journal of Food Biochemistry study for their total phenolic and antioxidant capacity in relation to the potential management of hyperglycemia. Quercetin derivatives were found in black currants and green gooseberries, while red currants and gooseberries possessed chlorogenic acid.61
In a 2011 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, researchers noted that Indian gooseberries, when used alone or with other plants, may help:62
- Address colds and fever
- Promote diuretic and laxative properties
- Serve as a liver and hair tonic
- Fight inflammation
- Inhibit development of peptic ulcers or dyspepsia
- Enhance digestion
In preclinical research, Indian gooseberry was also indicated to have cardio-, gastro-, neuro-, nephro-, hepato- and neuroprotective properties, help prevent high levels of cholesterol in the blood, relieve pain, lower risk for anemia, diarrhea and plaque buildup within the arteries, suppress coughs, and improve wound healing. Additionally, this type of gooseberry contains properties that may lower cancer risk, warranting further studies for these purposes.63
Gooseberry healthy recipes:
Gooseberry refrigerator jam
✓ 750g peeled gooseberries
✓ 125g dried apricots, finely chopped
✓ 15g fresh ginger, finely grated
✓ Juice of 1 lime
✓ 2 vanilla beans, fresh
- 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 Foodie64)
Gooseberry fun facts
Gooseberry has become a staple in British cuisine ever since gooseberry sauce became the de facto partner for mackerel.65 This reflects a national hysteria over the fruit, especially since competitive gooseberry growing was a popular pastime. In 1845, 171 shows were held in England to showcase the berries.66 The Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society, established in 1800, is considered the oldest of nine surviving gooseberry shows in the country.67
Despite its benefits, the little gooseberry is quite underutilized in the culinary world. Gooseberries offer a tart flavor that's still a favorite in England for jams, jellies,68 juice69 and the classic dessert, gooseberry fool.70
Rich in antioxidant polyphenols and vitamins,71 gooseberries can vary in color, flavor and shape,72,73,74,75,76 but they all possess many tiny seeds.77 They also come with a wide array of nutrients like fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids78 and other compounds79 that make them exceptionally nourishing. Research has shown that gooseberries may also potentially protect your heart80 and eyes,81 promote overall well-being, and aid in slowing down aging.82,83
Traditional Indian medicine has also used Indian gooseberries to alleviate multiple health concerns,84 such as cough, fever, asthma85 and diarrhea.86 The juice made from the berries is also said to help prevent hair loss.87