Growing and eating gooseberries

Growing soft fruit, like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries in your own garden is a wonderful thing – it’s not too complicated, the results are delicious, there are savings to be had after a bit of initial investment and you have a wonderful supply of delicious fruits that aren’t always easily available.

We absolutely love gooseberries, but they are, sadly, very hard to find in the shops, so it was a no-brainer to start buying gooseberry bushes a few years back. If you’d like to have a go at growing gooseberries, here are some hints and tips.

Growing and eating delicious gooseberries - some hints, tips and ideas on growing and eating this delicious soft fruit, with recipes too

Not just the green hairy ones…

If you have rather unpleasant memories of rock hard, very sour and rather hairy fruit, growing on super-spiky branches, think again. There is more than one type of gooseberry. Pax (which has very few thorns) and Hinnonmaki Red are both dessert gooseberries that you can eat straight from the bush (they’re obviously great to make jam, preserves, crumbles, pies etc.). These are the ones that we grow – they are just beginning to ripen into beautiful red fruits, after the lovely sunny weather we have had.

Hinnonmaki red gooseberries beginning to ripen - click through for hints and tips on growing and eating delicious gooseberries

But we love the green ones too, and will be buying a couple of Invicta bushes in November, mainly because we have recently discovered how absolutely delicious they are paired with strawberries.

A heavenly match – gooseberries and strawberries

We have tried this amazing strawberry and gooseberry crumble recipe and made jam with a brilliant recipe from Eastbourne allotments (I used ordinary sugar rather than jam sugar as specified, and still got an excellent set – it produces a super bright red strawberry jam).

But the pièce de résistance was this recipe for Strawberry and Gooseberry Summer Pudding, which we had for lunch today. We used homegrown strawberries too.

Strawberries and gooseberries make a great combination for delicious desserts - click through for hints on growing and cooking gooseberries.

Because we have a glut of strawberries, and probably as much strawberry jam as we can eat in a year already, I have been making and freezing strawberry and gooseberry compote, that I am going to use to make more summer puddings and crumbles later in the  Here’s my quick recipe:

Gooseberry and Strawberry Compote

  • Servings: enough for a 4-person crumble or summer pudding
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 250g of green gooseberries, topped and tailed
  • 150g strawberries, hulled
  • 75g sugar
  • zest of a lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas 4) whilst you are preparing the fruit.
  2. Wash the prepared fruit and then put it in a baking dish with the sugar and lemon zest.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then give the mixture a stir, and back for a further 15-20 minutes, until the gooseberries are soft.

You can double the amounts if you have loads of fruit – but don’t double the lemon zest, just use the same amount.

More gooseberry recipes

I’ve blogged some of gooseberry recipes – here they are:

There’s also this great article in the Daily Telegraph (the only saving grace of the DT is it’s food writing, which is just excellent) with a lovely list of the most delicious looking gooseberry recipes – if that doesn’t tempt you to buy a couple of bushes, I don’t know what will!

General tips for growing gooseberries

Here’s an excellent article at Garden Focusesd about growing gooseberries – it’s so thorough and covers every eventuality, so I won’t go into huge detail here, but just share my experience. We grow our gooseberries in large plastic plant pots (I have repotted into larger pots as the plants have grown), in good quality compost, which works extremely well because it is so flexible in a small garden, and we have such heavy soil (and they have moved house twice!). In the early spring I mulch the bushes, and I feed them monthly with a dilute tomato feed during spring and summer. In the winter I just prune out old branches, damaged branches, and any growth in the centre of the bush to keep the branches well-spaced – this reduces the chance of fungal diseases and makes the berries easier to pick. The other advantage of growing gooseberries in containers is that it makes it easier to defeat the enemy!

Defeating gooseberry pests

In my garden, the gooseberry harvest is always in great peril – threatened by the gooseberry sawfly and wood pigeons… No doubt you will have the same problem!

Gooseberry sawflies

The gooseberry sawfly (here are some pictures at the RHS) lays its eggs in the soil round the base of the bushes, and the caterpillars, when they hatch, climb up through the centre of the bush, eating leaves as they go. And they eat A LOT! They can defoliate a bush in a few days, which although it doesn’t effect the fruit in the current year, will definitely cause a smaller harvest in future years and can eventually kill a bush. You can obviously use pesticides (ugh) or nematodes (a biological control), which I gather are effective, but expensive. The most effective method though, is to pick the caterpillars off the bushes as the start to appear. You need to look at the centre of the bush, on the lower branches first, and just pick and squish (sorry).

Because I read that the sawfly eggs are in the soil round the bush, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I grow my gooseberries in containers, and in the very early spring, I scrape a couple of inches of soil away from the top of the pots (being careful not to damage the roots), and replace it with fresh compost and a mulch. This has massively reduced my sawfly problem – and combined with regular checks for caterpillars, has been very effective.

Birds

Last year’s gooseberry harvest was eaten by a pair of wood pigeons virtually overnight, so this year I invested in a proper fruit cage from Harrod Horticultural. My garden looks a bit like Fort Knox, but I am protecting the gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants from all the winged thieves:

Fruit cage protecting gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants in my vegetable garden

This is the system that I bought – it’s 1.2m high, 1m wide and 3.5m long – it comes complete with netting and ground fixings and cost me just under £90. Worth every penny when I see the sad longing looks on the faces of the wood pigeons, but you can make cages yourself with bamboo and netting, or just throw netting over the top of the bushes. The main thing is to make sure insects can still get in to pollinate the flowers – so the nets do not go over the bushes until the tiny fruits are visible.

I really hope I have tempted you to have a go at growing some delicious gooseberries – it is so satisfying to eat your own home-grown harvest. I’d love to hear your experience of growing other varieties of soft fruit. I have blueberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants too – what works for you?

100 Days of Curated Colour – Week 10

Another week passes! There’s nothing like doing a daily project to make you mindful of the passing time…! If you’re here for the first time – a recap – I’m doing the 100 Day Project on Instagram (#the100dayproject), creating flat lay photos of fabrics and haberdashery based on palettes I glean from Design Seeds. You can see all my collections on my Instagram feed with the tag #100daysofcuratedcolour, and you can also find them, very nicely presented on my Pinterest board – Curated Colours for Stitching Inspiration.

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 64/100 green gold pink lilac

64/100: Design Seeds – Flora: Charmed Flora

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 65/100 maroon burgundy pink cream blue

65/100: Market Hues: Fresh Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 66/100 purple lilac green cream

66/100: Design Seeds – Market Hues: Fresh Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 67/100 purple lilac orange peach

67/100: Design Seeds – Wanderlust: Color Horizon

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 68/100 peach pink green blue

68/100: Design Seeds – Summer: Hut Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 69/100 purple green grey

69/100: Design Seeds – Flora: Flora Tones

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - 70/100 grey beige flax blue cream

70/100: Design Seeds – Creature Color

I’m always surprised by how much people love the more neutral or single tone palettes. Or maybe I do a better job of them because they are a bit easier. Anyway, 70 was the winner over on Instagram this week, closely followed by 66 and 64. I think I agree with everyone else – what do you think?

Help with stress and anxiety for creative people (aka everyone)

Is craft therapeutic?

There’s a lot of chat and (can I be honest?), I think, rather superficial stuff written about how doing craft is relaxing, therapeutic, blah blah. Of course, it’s true that doing a repetitive physical task, and losing yourself in the creative process can often be a real boost to your mental health, but I feel it’s nowhere near as simple as that, if the comments on my posts about creativity and mental health are anything to go by.

My own experience is that sometimes undertaking craft projects when you are feeling low or anxious can end up making you feel worse. I remember, a few years back, just at time when my mental health was taking a downward turn, I went on a ‘make a textile piece that expresses your inner self’ type course, and came away feeling beyond dreadful, because I wasn’t able to concentrate, focus, or come up with any ideas.

Creativity and meditation

Being creative requires playfulness, decisiveness, self-confidence, concentration, inspiration, enthusiasm, head-space – all of which can be in short supply when you are depressed, anxious, or feeling low. Sometimes you need to work on strengthening your inner resources and building resilience in other ways. This is something I have been working on recently, prompted partly by the book I want to tell you about today – Meditation for Daily Stress: 10 Practices for Immediate Well-being by Michel Pascal (Abrams & Chronicle – thanks to them for a free review copy):

A review of the book Meditation for Daily Stress by Michel Pascal. Click through to read the review and some thoughts about how meditation can support a creative life.

If you’ve never done meditation, or you have tried to get going with it and found it hard to stick with because of time constraints, I think this book is a great place to start. Or, if you already have a regular meditation practice, there are some really useful tools here that you could add to your kit – this isn’t a standard meditation guide.

Using visualisations

Pascal’s meditations use simple visualisations, combined with a very uncomplicated approach to awareness of breathing. He has created a practice that can be used in short bursts throughout the day – making it practical to do even on the train or bus, at your desk or at times during the day when you can just take a moment.

Pascal’s method is designed to be used in the moment that the stress starts, before it takes hold and causes upset. He also teaches ways of meditating in busy and noisy situations – something that’s been invaluable to me as I struggle with crowds – and makes this a fantastic resource when you need a bit of immediate emotional First Aid.

Meditate for emergency stress management

Buttermere in the Lake District, a visual trigger for meditation practice. Click through to read more about my personal exploration of how meditation can support creative practice, and a review of Michel Pascal's book Meditation for Daily Stress.

I find the visualisations very effective (especially the suggestion that you use real images – that you can have on your phone/PC/tablet – to help you get started – here’s the picture of Buttermere and Great Gable that I use). I have found this particular visualisation for the practice ‘meditate like a mountain’ absolutely invaluable in helping with upsetting feelings that have threatened to become overwhelming over the last few days. I was setting a timer to take a few minutes every couple of hours or so, almost like pain relief. After spending some quiet moments I found I was able to refocus on my work in the Studio.

Getting started with meditation

Pascal’s style is approachable and charming, and he writes with wisdom drawn from his experience of living and learning at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, from his experiences teaching meditation in LA, from neuroscience and from the Christian tradition too (which I appreciate very much because it is so familiar to me, having grown up in the same tradition). For a small book, there’s so much good stuff here – and if meditation is something that you feel might help you with your creative journey, I think this might be an excellent place to start

There’s lots more to say about meditation, creativity and stitching – I’d like to share more about the science behind meditation/mindfulness/contemplative practices, but that’s so fascinating, I don’t want to rush it, so I will leave it for now. Suffice to say, there are plenty of scientific studies which provide evidence and some insight into why regular meditation practice can support your creativity. But more another time!

Do you practice meditation, mindfulness or contemplative prayer? I’d love to hear about your thoughts on how it supports your creative activities.