It’s one of the most exciting times of year down at the allotment. Having space for growing gooseberries was one of my main motivations for taking on an allotment. When I was young I remember a few bushes at the end of our family garden. Their prickles were ferocious and I remember my forearms criss-crossed with the scratches from their thorns. I love their sharp mouth twisting taste combined with their sweetness. I also remember our family dog loving them too, and she developed a fine art of reaching through the branches with her eyes closed and plucking the berries off with her teeth. I wish I had a picture of that.
Growing gooseberries today somehow seems safer. I think modern varieties have less thorns, and my most recent edition at the allotment, the red gooseberry Pax, doesn’t have any at all. This is a very elegant plant (unlike those shown in the photo) with a tall stem and then a round bush head – think decorative pot grown bay tree. I confess to being very anxious this year about my gooseberry crop. The magically hot March weather brought my bushes into growth and blossom just in time for a treacherously wet and cold April. The rain was great – compared to previous years I was able to put my feet up from watering. The threat came from frosts, but thankfully those that came were not too severe and now I can see the small fruits forming on the branches.
Today it feels like the home run for the harvest. As I write the curtains are closed in my room as the sunshine is magnificently hot. The green leaves of the bushes are dancing in the wind and glowing with colour. I am left with two tasks. The first, and most important, is to cover all my bushes with nets. We have pigeons at our allotmet. In my first year of growing I remember people saying how their gooseberries bushes looked healthy, but only grew one or two fruit. The mystery was easily solved by a net! The second task to eat enough ice cream so that we have sufficient plastic tubs to use to pick and bring them home. And that’s just one of the joys of growing gooseberries, as they come early in summer, bursting full of sweetness, keep for weeks on the bush and – fingers crossed – in great number.