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What Is It
No, it’s not a berry for geese. There’s a few theories about the process, but the gooseberry allegedly earned its name from the etymological corruption of the French word groseille, for currant. In more simple terms that just means that people were really bad at pronouncing French words and we ended up saying gooseberry.
The gooseberry’s one of the lesser known fruits, ranking up there with starfruit, lychee, durian - you’ve probably heard of them, but may not have ever tried them. Gooseberries look like veiny grapes or maybe tiny little watermelons, but they’ve got a distinct flavor of their own. Like with most berries the flavor can vary depending on where they’re grown, but they usually have a very sour, tart taste profile.
The berries are most recognizable when they’re green, but also can come in varieties of yellow, red, black, and white.
It seems like every fruit out there claims to be a superfruit. But the gooseberry is right up there as a contender. A 100 gram serving of gooseberries is packed with 27 milligrams of vitamin C. In case you’re not an expert of how many grams of vitamin C you need to be taking each day, well, that’s just about half of all you need for a daily recommended dose. Gooseberries contain nearly twenty times the amount of vitamin C found in oranges.
The amla, or Indian goosebery, is widely used in hair care routines. The carotene contained in the berry boosts hair health, and has been linked to preventing hair loss because the carotene and antioxidants work to block free radicals from damaging hair follicles.
Free radicals are associated with aging in general, and gooseberries are thought to combat wrinkles and age spots because of their resistance to the free radicals. It’s also good for your skin. Astringent properties combined with antioxidants are a winning duo when looking to improve skin tone and provide relief from harmful radiation experienced in our day to day lives.
Studies are currently being done to see if the properties in gooseberries can help prevent cancer. The free radical protection comes into play again - blocking against them likely has chemopreventive effects, which would aid the treatment of cancer.
The gooseberry hit the height of its popularity in Britain in the late 18th century, where English Gooseberry Clubs popped up all across the country - with two even reportedly springing up in America. Gooseberries grow best in cold, damp conditions, which makes the weather of the English countrysides the perfect climate.
What do you do in a gooseberry club? Grow gooseberries. But not just gooseberries - these growers would compete to grow the largest gooseberries in the land. The Gooseberry Growers Register recorded all the results from people who sent in their prized gooseberries.
Berries would be weighed, assessed, and named - names such as Roaring Lion and Hero of the Nile were thrown into the mix.
While certainly not as many of the clubs exist today, they’re still around and growing. The Mid-Cheshire Gooseberry Association is comprised of eight of the clubs, who get together to show off their skills and the gooseberries they produced.
The largest gooseberry grown to date was 64.49g, which roughly equals the size of an egg. That might not seem too impressive, but typically gooseberries are smaller than the average grape. A man in Rode Hall, England, grew the largest gooseberry for sixteen years in a row, from 1993 to 2009, when in 2010 he finally relinquished his crown.
The growers don’t eat their winning berries - too much cultivation has gone into them for consumption to be enjoyable. Depending on the growing techniques, the soil may have been pumped with manure or they could be covered in wax.
Needless to say, the English people - and many other people as well - really, really love gooseberries. If you’ve never taken a shot at this lesser-known fruit, then today’s your day to give gooseberry a go.
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