Tasman Leader : January 9th 2014
18 THE TASMAN LEADER, JANUARY 9, 2014 GARDENING/PUZZLES Enjoy gooseberries before the birds do By STEPHEN MCCARTHY T his year we had a very poor crop of gooseberries mainly due to a lack of pruning and a mild winter. Like currants and raspberries they are a fruit which does best in a climate with cold winters. Last year we had lots of them and we squirrelled away large plastic bags of them in the freezer – so many in fact we still have quite a few left this season. This was just as well as the birds got most of this year’s meagre crop. Blackbirds and thrushes seem inordinately fond of these fruit even when to our taste they are definitely not ripe, so you need to cover them early in the season with netting. Suddenly the birds will find they are just right for them and in a real case of ‘‘here today and gone tomorrow’’ they will almost completely strip the bushes. It is amazing how large a fruit they can swallow in one gulp. Gooseberries prefer a good rich soil and, being a gross feeder, do better with annual additions of well-decayed manure and compost. This not only enriches the soil but also helps it retain moisture as they do not do at all well in dry soil. It also provides them with a cool root-run which the plants appreciate. One book says that it is best to plant them in a site where they will receive only part of the hot summer’s sunshine. We mulch our plants with decayed oak leaves and this helps keep down weeds as cultivating around gooseberry bushes by hand can be a very painful experience. Pruning plants and feeding them well helps ensure vigorous new growth and this is what should be aimed for as the plants set most fruit on young wood. Old thick woody stems should be cut out immediately after fruiting to encourage new growth and to open up the bushes, otherwise they quickly become a tight mass of prickly and relatively unproductive branches. Plants in this state produce markedly less fruit of a smaller size which is extremely difficult and painful to pick. Gooseberries are very easy to propagate from cuttings taken in winter. The cuttings should be of that year’s hardened new growth and be about 25 cm in length. They can be inserted to about a third of their length in pots or where you finally want them to grow and, like currants, they nearly all strike readily. You could put in two cuttings per site as insurance and remove one if they both grow, with the plants spaced about 90 cm apart. You can often find patches of gooseberries in remote areas. We have found them in the Upper Wairau catchment, Molesworth and in the goldfield areas of Otago where they denote a long-gone settlement of early pioneers. These are invariably small- fruited varieties with a hairy berry. Although sweet when ripe they are not a patch on the larger smooth-skinned modern hybrids. Gooseberry fruit is not readily offered for sale and when they are they are very expensive. Last Christmas I saw them in a supermarket for $7.50 for 200 grams, a whopping $37.50 per kilo. There are different varieties to choose from for dessert and for cooking. I can remember in my childhood eating large, red, sweet gooseberries which burst in your mouth and the inside was like jelly. Delicious. The cooking varieties are used as stewed fruit, mixed with custard to make the traditional ‘‘Gooseberry Fool’’ or used in combination with other fruit such as currants, raspberries and blackberries to make a fine jam. My wife made some very good jam using a combination of black currants and gooseberries. CROSSWORD TOP 10 YOUR STARS THE TOP 10 1. Which tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel? 2. On 9 September 1907, the colony of New Zealand formally became a what? 3. Which 1996 film starred Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas? 4. Which musical features the song “All I Ask of You”? 5. Canaan Banana was the first president of which country? 6. According to the Monty Python team, what does a lumberjack do all night? 7. When was the name kiwifruit introduced - 1953, 1959 or 1965? 8. What is the Japanese share index called? 9. Whose 1989 album The Four Seasons became the best-selling classical recording of all time? 10. What is the New Zealand bird the kahu also known as? NZ CROSSWORD Tasty treat: This year’s gooseberries. SUDOKU 1. Achilles tendon,2. Dominion,3The English Patient,4. Phantom of the Opera, 5. Zimbabwe, 6. Sleep, 7. 1959, 8. Nikkei, 9. Nigel Kennedy, 10. Harrier hawk.
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