One of the best things about traveling is the opportunity to taste fresh fruits and vegetables that we might not otherwise have an opportunity to know. When I travel to other parts of the country and the world, I love to go to the market and look for fruit that is unfamiliar to me. That was the case with this package of prickly green berries that I found at a supermarket in a little town on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Have you ever seen these before? They're gooseberries! I had tried gooseberries before — but only in the form of jam (from IKEA — hardly local and unique!). Gooseberry jam has a pleasant tang and an acidic sweetness, and it is actually my very favorite thing to pair with plain yogurt.
But I had never seen fresh gooseberries until I found this package at a supermarket in Vancouver Island, BC. My husband and I were staying outside a little village on the east coast during the last leg of our recent vacation, and we wandered into the grocery store to buy some coffee. I spotted these in the produce section, but they didn't have any sort of label, except for a sticker proclaiming them as locally grown.
I had just been at the UBC Botanical Gardens, though, and seen red gooseberries growing in their edible garden.
Gooseberries, as you can see, grown on low, scrappy bushes, and they're quite common and even wild throughout much of Great Britain and parts of Europe and Asia. In the United States, however, they aren't as common; they've been considered carriers of white pine blister rust, and it's still illegal to cultivate them in some parts of the country. So they just aren't as commonly used here. But they seem to like the moist, cool climate of Vancouver Island, and apparently they are grown there; there were heaps in the grocery store.
What do they taste like? They are quite tart, although larger, softer berries were sweeter. They have a prickly fuzz, and little "tops and tails" on either end from the stem and flower. You pull these off, then eat the berry whole. They were very refreshing and delicious, but after we smuggled them back home, I decided to make jam with the remnant. See the recipe and result tomorrow!
Do you cook with gooseberries?
Related: Recipe of the Day: Gooseberries and Cream
(Images: Faith Durand)