Gooseberries are familiar to English cooks, but they’ve only recently started appearing in U.S. markets (they’d long been banned here as they can be host to a mildew that attacks pine trees, but the ban has been lifted). Green, red, pink, yellow, and even milky-white varieties range from pea- to marble-size. Berries can be smooth or hairy; be sure to check hairy varieties for powdery mildew. A ripe gooseberry is assertively tart with a clean, bright flavor that may remind you of green grapes, Granny Smith apples, or even guava. Ripe berries should be firm, but if they’re hard and resilient, they’re underripe.
Before cooking, remove the stem and tail. Then try them in both sweet and savory dishes. Greg Higgins, chef-owner of Higgins restaurant in Portland, Oregon, adds whole berries to butter sauces for rich, oily fish like tuna or mackerel. In desserts, “gooseberries need a good dose of sugar to temper that remarkable acidity,” he advises, and suggests an oatmeal-crusted gooseberry crisp, a gooseberry pie (add some tapioca to thicken), or a gooseberry fool (simmer a chunky gooseberry purée, chill, and fold into whipped cream).