Health benefits of gorgeous gooseberries
Gooseberries: round, slightly furry little fellows, popular in the 19th Century, but less so today. Unfortunately the same is also true of the fruit.
Gooseberry, the fruit
Sharp, tart and astringent, these yellow, green, white or red berries are not a natural ‘poster fruit’ for 21st Century sugar addicted tastes, which is probably why they have fallen from favour. This is a great shame as they have wonderful qualities beyond the obvious; underutilised in cooking, they can offer a piquant flavour to fish, chicken and game dishes. Great for jam and jelly making, you can also add gooseberries to muffins and pies. They may also be unpopular with Big Food as they have a short season and their flavours change as they ripen. The early green variety are much tarter in comparison to later more purplish crop. If you are lucky enough to see a punnet, do try them.
The good health stuff
Gooseberries have numerous health benefits. Like most fruits they are a good source of vitamin C, which can aid in maintaining healthy bones, muscles, cartilage and blood vessels, as well as vitamin A and potassium. A fantastic fibre resource, important in helping in the prevention of colon cancer and heart disease. It is said that gooseberries strengthen the heart muscle, slow aging, protect the eyes and improve skin texture, however, more research is required to fully back up these theories. All the same, this little berry with its wide array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant polyphenolics makes it exceptionally nutritious.
Gooseberry, the ‘third wheel’
To ‘play gooseberry’ is to be the ‘third wheel’ – a usually not exactly welcome individual hanging out with a couple, often cramping their style. Yet in the nineteenth century, a time of much stricter Victorian social propriety, such a person was extremely useful. Being chaperoned enabled a courting couple to be together, allowing romance to blossom. Why such a person was called a gooseberry is uncertain – I suspect it was a play on the popular recipe of gooseberry fool, with the chaperone either knowingly or unknowingly playing the fool.
As with our taste buds, so our social tastes; gooseberries have fallen from favour. But we would be fools to forget the little berry. They are definitely worth another taste.
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