For years I had seen the formidable gooseberries in the forest. Green with long spines, they looked like berries from a far-away planet. No one I knew did anything with the gooseberries so I opted to hike on by and leave the berries to the brave wildlife that had learned to manage all those prickly things on the outside of the berry. Have I made my point that the berries do not look friendly?
With our expanding interest in foraging, Amanda and I decided that we needed to try out ALL the edibles in our locale. Gooseberries, here we come!
When the student is ready, the teacher will come. Our teacher was Pat Rickert who has lived in the area for many more decades than we. She coached us on how to get the berries off the bushes and where to go for the best harvest.
It turns out that the green intimidating objects I knew as gooseberries were simply not ripe. When the berries ripen to shades of ruby red and magenta the sugar is high and the prickers soften considerably. Harvesting the berries was much easier than we anticipated.
Not being in survival mode right now, we want our food to taste good and be worth the effort. I admit that we are spoiled. Now we are spoiled even more. Those ripe gooseberries cooked up into a most amazing syrup – unique, earthy, and addictive. The little bit of work required to make the syrup is well worth it. And the work of harvesting? How can you call it work as you stroll among the ancient forest of trees at 6500 foot elevation, birds singing, breeze cool and clean? Work? You get my drift.
If you have enough syrup you could can it like jam. We’ve done small batches that hardly call for canning. Our syrup is frozen in ice cube trays and then bagged for longer storage in the freezer.
Having a limited amount of this marvelous syrup, I’m already making plans about how to best use it. The gooseberry flavor marries well with cream, hence we have had gooseberry ice cream. It also blends with many fruits. How about thawing out a cube of syrup to add to a pint of homemade applesauce? Magic! You will not run out of ways to enjoy this antioxidant-rich addition to your menus.
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