Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Philosophical gardening and strange fruit

I really feel sorry for anyone who has started to 'grow their own' this year or last; you haven't had it easy, it's either been too dry, too hot, too cold or too darn wet. It's easy to moan about what hasn't grown and get very down and fed up about trying to be self-sufficient in fresh fruit and veg.

The thing is, there never is a year when everything grows and produces a wonderful crop, so it's best to grow a variety of the different crops and there's bound to be a few that do quite well. There will probably be one or two that surpass all expectations. You could call it Biodiversity, I'm going to call it Philosophical Gardening.

Here's an example . . . Gooseberries.

Some years, well actually most years, they are a bit tricky to get to crop well. If it's warm and a little bit humid the bushes get mildew and the fruit get covered in a horrid fungal bloom. Then, as if that isn't bad enough, the leaves suddenly disappear! Munched, seemingly overnight, by a marching army of Gooseberry Sawfly larvae.

This year (while we've all been hiding indoors, keeping warm and sheltering from the storms) our 'Invicta' Gooseberry bush has been flourishing, growing big spiny new shoots, lush shiny green leaves and lots and lots of fruit. Untroubled by mildew and wriggly maggots, the fruit have swelled and the branches hung down under the weight of hundreds of plump green bristly berries.


On Saturday afternoon I decided to pick all the Gooseberries from our single bush, the yield was 2.5 kilos! I sat in the shade and while listened to the Wimbledon commentary on TuneIn Radio on my iPhone, I nubbed the Gooseberries.


Spending all that time looking at Gooseberries, made me realise what strange little fruits they are. What was the flower stalk is that thin olive-green stem ending in a tiny trumpet shape; the fruit bit is like a green balloon, the remains of the dry shriveled petals are still attached to the end opposite the stalk.

I put one half of the Gooseberries in the freezer and with the other I made Gooseberry and Elderflower jam (River Cottage recipe as shown here). It smelled gorgeously flowery as it cooked.


I put a dozen Gooseberries aside to be 'life models' . . . I wanted to record how Gooseberries, which you'd think are as similar as peas in a pod, are actually each unique.  I remembered what one of my art college drawing tutors used to say as he paced behind us during life classes, "first, the strange shapes; the strange shapes".


At the end of the day there were five jars (and a bit over for Sunday breakfast) of beautiful, complex, sharp, sweet, Gooseberry and Elderflower jam. A jam of such distinction really deserves some scones and clotted cream!


And here are the strange fruits . . . each one a little different from the others.


Celia
x



35 comments:

  1. That's a fruit you don't see much here in the states. I think that the name, itself, is adorable. Why are they called gooseberries? Do geese like them? Do the flowers look like geese heads (we have cranesbill geraniums!) Do tell.

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  2. Lovely illustrations Celia. I particularly like'nub' :)
    With all this effort you have gone to and all the lovely descriptions I really ought to try and like goosgogs!

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  3. did you use your watercolour for customised labels? Would make wonderful gifts. If you could bear to part with them.

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  4. I just started to (seriously) grow my own this year, so I can confirm that its been interesting! But never the less, so enjoyable, and now I'm truly hooked! But even so, i've had no major casualties, and at least when Radishes bolt they have nice flowers :)

    Always enjoy reading your blog!

    Katie

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  5. Great post! You're right, this has been a less than propitious year in which to be first-time allotmenteers, as our experience here in Newcastle testifies. However, even with weather as grim as it has been, there have been some small but important victories - broad beans for us - which keep you trucking on. I love the watercolours. ps, if interested, we've just started a blog recently at patchygrowth.blogspot.com . Lee.

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  6. what a good question of Terry's...I have no idea why they are called Gooseberries - perhaps the resultant jam or compote goes beautifully with goose!

    I spent hours topping and tailing gooseberries for my mother when i was a child. Her gooseberry crumble was heavenly - oozing with butter and brown sugar. No tartness there.

    A beautiful post - inspiring & informative.

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  7. I usually leave the gooseberries till they are as plump as plums then squash them in my mouth and discard the skins. They taste like Kiwi fruit - deelish. One of my bushes has been sawflyed this year but the goosegogs are hanging on regardless. Love your paintings of them - I must admit I have never really looked at them that closely - maybe I will now.

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  8. Oh I love gooseberries (and never have any joy growing them) and I am very taken with your gooseberry paintings.

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  9. Yes diversity is definately the key. I often hear stories of people who say "I gave gardening a go but it didn't work out." And when I ask what did you grow they reply "Oh just tomatoes".

    I really like the labels you made.

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  10. So happy that you had a bumper crop of gooseberries! I don't think I've ever had gooseberries! What do they taste like? Your preserves look just beautiful! I love the labels!

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  11. Ooh, I haven't had a gooseberry for ages. I love the idea of gooseberry and elderflower jam. I've just bottled some Elderflower Champagne which I'm rather nervous about given its reputed explosive qualities!
    P x

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  12. I was just outside looking at my purple gooseberries thinking they could do with another week of sunshine (yeah right!) and then they'll be glorious... and you're right... there will be sooo many from one tiny bush!... can't wait x

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  13. Hi Terry - I've been trying to find out why 'goose' berry... no one seems to know! All sorts of possible derivations and mispronunciations of German/Dutch/French names! Geese don't eat them. BUT Gooseberry Sauce (made like Cranberry Sauce) just happens to be very very good with roast goose (and mackerel).

    Hi Ailec - I think you should start with gooseberry ice cream ;-)

    Hi Diana - the labels use a scan of the watercolour. I should have made up some in smaller pots for presents.

    Hi Katie - good luck with the veg growing... btw love the name of your blog!

    Thank you Lee - I love broad beans! Waiting for my Crimson Flowered BB pods to get bigger.

    Hi Gabs - gooseberry compote is indeed lovely with roast goose... but apparentlyt it's not the source (sic) of the name.

    Hi Elaine - plump very ripe gooseberries are a rare treat, aren't they?! I'm impatiently waiting for my Hinomaki Red dessert gooseberries to ripen.

    Hi Poshyarns - thank you, I'm pleased with my gooseberry painting too... I must do more watercolours! Maybe I've been inspired by the rain.

    Hi Jason - grow lost of different stuff! a good plan.

    Hi Ocean Breezes - it seems that in North America a fresh gooseberry is a rare fruit! As Elaine said, when ripe they are a little like Kiwi fruit. When under-ripe they are very very tart, but with added sugar they make a beautiful conserve, pie, crumble, tart, ice-cream... etc. A good Sauvignon Blanc wine is often described as tasting of gooseberries.

    Hi Penny - my Elderflower Champagne is in a big pan 'fermenting' or whatever... no fizziness yet :-/
    Yes Gooseberry and Elderflower is a match made in heaven - ice-cream is especially good!

    Hi Dom - me too! Those Hinomaki Red dessert gooseberries need a little sunshine to make them perfect! What will you be making with yours?


    Celia
    xx

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  14. Great post Celia accompanied by some great comments too. Of course I now want to know why they are called gooseberries and why on earth we also call them'goosegogs'. Will have to try and find out if only to assuage my curiosity. We gave up on them a couple of years ago after they were decimated by the dreaded sawfly but that jam looks yummy and makes me wonder if they don't deserve a second chance!

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  15. Hi Lesley - this article sort of sums up all the other ones I've read about the derivation of the name 'gooseberry'
    http://www.allaboutstuff.com/Garden_Tips/Gooseberries.asp

    Some years the sawfly strikes but I think that the February weekend when we had -16C and -12C may have erradicated them!!!

    The lovely thing about gooseberry jam is that it always sets perfectly! It's worth adding a few gooseberries to strawberry jam - improves the set and also the flavour ;-)

    Celia
    x

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  16. I posted about gooseberries the other day too, but not remotely as interestingly and without the pretty watercolour illustrations.

    Your jam looks and sounds divine. Happy eating :D

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    Replies
    1. Interesting post Annie. I can recommend Gooseberry & Elderflower jam.

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  17. oooh that jam does sound delicious and I love your illustration of the different-ness of gooseberries!

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  18. Gooseberries are wonderful and remind me of picking them from the bushes at the bottom of my Grandad's garden. Then we used to sit on the step and nub them.
    Each year in gardening is different isn't it - and next year will always be better won't it?!

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    1. I don't think you can be a gardener without believing that the next year will be better.

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  19. This post has my mouth watering for the remembered taste of 'scrumped' goosegogs, usually eaten before the were ripe and always raw - I just love tart flavours.

    The watercolour is superb as are your labels.

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    1. ... need a slight redesign as the new labels don't like sticking to the jars!

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  20. I love your labels Celia. I don't have a gooseberry bush but I usually aquire some from a friend to make jam. My veg beds are looking very sparse this year though and things are only just starting to grow... except for my fennel which is going mad!

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    1. I think everyone has struggled with growing veg this year. Hope you get some gooseberries for jam making!

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  21. Celia, your watercolors of the various ways that gooseberries can present themselves are so lovely.

    I'd read about gooseberries for many years before a friend actually bought and brought me a little container of these beautiful, delicious translucent globes from the Union Square Farmers Market here in New York.

    They were all I had imagined and more. Lucky you to be able to actually grow them in this 2012 strange weather year.

    Grand to save from for later and make that delish jam for ... now!

    (I also did some studies of my gooseberry gifts back then, and now you've reminded me to seek them out soon at that Farmers Market.

    Let me also mention that I sent one of your Blackberry Hen cards to my printmaking brother for his birthday card, and he was so delighted!

    xo

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    1. Hi Frances, I think there are strict regulations about growing gooseberries in the USA, something about spread of a plant disease - so that's why they aren't common.

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  22. Hello Celia. I've just discovered your blog and love the informative posts and the wonderful illustrations. I, too , love gooseberries. I planted a bush last year on our newly acquired allotment. In the first year, we had a handful of fruits, but this year, before we could get our eager hands on them, they were savaged first by mildew and then by sawfly and only two fruits survived. Oh well 'C'est la vie' !

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    1. Hi and welcome to PPPs. Good luck with your allotment

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  23. These labels are very cute! It will be very nice to get a jar of this jam out and put some on a toast - perfect breakfast.

    Our gooseberries are still too hard, but you have just inspired me to make some new labels - last year I drew some using colour pencils, but this year I might get my watercolours out.

    Enjoy the rest of the summer!

    K.

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    1. Thank you... looks like the weather has started to improve :-)

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  24. What a wonderful post - I'm celebrating my first crop of gooseberries this year (though nowhere near as many as you!) and you've caught their curious loveliness perfectly :-)

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    1. Hi - I hope you made some delicious things with your home-grown gooseberries.

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  25. I love Gooseberries, especially in a jam or pickle. I have spent the last couple of years taking hardwood cuttings in order to multiply the number of plants we have in the hedgerow @ the bottom of our yard. This year I believe we will have a bumpercrop.

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    1. Taking cuttings of gooeberries and currants is so easy and an excellent way to increase the harvest :-)
      Gooseberry Pickle... now that sounds interesting!

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