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FORAGING for WILD GOOSEBERRIES: In the Woods

Foraging Wild Gooseberries
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Did you know? On average, healthy gooseberry plants produce more than 10 lbs of fruit every year.

Imagine all the jams, jellies, and baked goods you can make if you’ve planted a gooseberry shrub in the backyard. We’re lucky enough that gooseberry bushes grow wild on our homestead and in our yard but foraging wild gooseberries on the trail is a great late summer activity!

black mountain gooseberries on a wooden porch board
Wild Black Gooseberries

Admittedly, foraging wild gooseberries is a much-awaited activity in our family. It’s because they are one of our favorite fruits and I enjoy freezing some for winter use.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about this summer-centric fun.

The Guide: Foraging Wild Gooseberries

Step 1: Prep

Foraging is a nice activity to do with the kids this summer. However, foraging with family involves some prep on your part.

Here is how we prepare for the day:

  • Wear sturdy footwear to prevent slips or accidents while we’re on the trail.
  • Make sure to bring gloves to protect our hands from thorny bushes.
  • Bring scissors, shears, and a harvest basket to gather the gooseberries.
  • Make sure to keep water bottles and snacks with us if we are planning a long hike
  • Also, depending on your location……bring bug spray and/or bear spray!

In short, prepare for everything to ensure that the foraging expedition is successful.

Step 2: Identify a Gooseberry Shrub

Here are the three things that help you identify a gooseberry shrub:

  • The shrubs are prickly and spiky with thorns all over them.
  • The shrubs have scalloped-edged leaves with slightly rounded tips.
  • You can find the ripened gooseberries under the branches, all arranged in a single line.
Gooseberry Leaves and Thorns
Gooseberry Leaf Shape and Thorns

Once you’ve recognized a gooseberry branch, it’s time to pick.

Fun Fact: Nutrients in Gooseberries

Step 3: Start Gathering Gooseberries

Purple, red, green, and pinkthese summer fruits come in all sorts of colors. We harvest wild gooseberries which look very similar to the Black Velvet Gooseberry variety. The most common ones though are American Green (Ribes hirtellum) and European (Ribes uva-crispa).

Foraging for gooseberries isn’t that challenging. However, you should know how to steer clear of the spiky parts of the plant.

Otherwise, you might scratch yourself or tear your clothing. Picking by hand is the simplest means of harvesting gooseberries. 

I hope you get a basketful on your first foraging trip.

Foraging Wild Gooseberries

Pro tip: Don’t eat unripe gooseberries. They are smaller than the mature fruit and are harder and not softened like the ripened berries. Also, avoid picking up gooseberries from the ground because they are usually overripe.

If you would like to cultivate and grow your own gooseberries, take a look at this:

Gooseberry Plant Varieties that are readily available on Amazon

What’s the ideal time to harvest gooseberries?

We prefer to harvest gooseberries when they have reached their full size, the gooseberries we pick are a deep purple color, and somewhat sweet.

Pro tip: You can freeze fresh gooseberries for the winter months.

Freezing Gooseberries:

Gooseberries are super easy to freeze.

  1. First, you must remove both the stem and tail of each gooseberry.
  2. Make sure to sort out any soft or mushy one and discard
  3. Next, spread the sorted gooseberries on a cookie with edges
  4. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid
  5. Store your individually frozen gooseberries in canning jars, plastic bags or freezer containers
  6. Use over the winter months

There is no easy way to remove the stems and tails of each gooseberry prior to freezing but it must be done. Simply removing them by hand to the best way to accomplish this task.

Pro Tip: freezing berries in a single layer ensures that they do not stick together when frozen.

By freezing them individually it makes it extremely easy to take out a few berries at a time or more when making a compote, jam or pie.

Juicing Gooseberries:

Gooseberries are perfect for juicing with a Stem Juicer. This method extracts the juice of each berry which can then be used immediately as fresh juice or for making jelly. The juice may also be canned for later use.
 

also see

The Use: Common Uses of Gooseberries

The good news is that most gooseberry varieties are edible. So you and your fellow scavengers can devour them during the foraging trip. 

Besides this, you can use gooseberries to:

  • Make homemade jams and jellies.
  • Pies and Tarts
  • Preserve or freeze gooseberries for the winter season.
  • Simmer gooseberries in a few tablespoons of water with 1/4 cup each of the following berries: raspberries, strawberries, & blueberries, plus a little sugar. Simmer just until berries are soft. Serve over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream
  • Gooseberries are delicious when added to fresh kefir. Double Ferment the kefir for a super rich probiotic drink. Homemade Milk Kefir and Homemade Water Kefir. Enjoy!

To Keep Your Berries Fresh in the Refrigerator try this: Fresh Produce Saver by Rubbermaid

plastic-fruit-and-berry-keeper-for-the-refrigerator

In a Nutshell:

Foraging for wild gooseberries is a wonderful way to get close to nature. You get to spend a few hours under the sun while you pick the fruit. However, do remember to keep an eye out of thorns, scavenging animals, and unripe gooseberries during the process. It’s because these things can turn your outings sour in an instant.

So what are you waiting for? Gather the troops and start foraging gooseberries!

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Wild Gooseberries are easy to forage

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