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Ribes uva-crispa - L.                
Common Name Gooseberry, European gooseberry
Family Grossulariaceae
Known Hazards The fresh leaves contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide, though details of quantities are not given[240]. This substance is found in several foods, including almonds. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Woods and hedges, often by streams[17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa, Italy and the Caucasus.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Ribes uva-crispa is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Mar to May, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : 4-8

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Ribes uva-crispa Gooseberry, European gooseberry

Ribes uva-crispa Gooseberry, European gooseberry
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; North Wall. By. East Wall. By.
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves.
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 2, 5, 7, 61]. The fruit is often picked when under-ripe and very firm, it has a very tart flavour at this time and is mainly used in making pies, jams etc. However, if the fruit is allowed to remain on the plant until it is fully ripe and soft it becomes quite sweet and is delicious for eating out of hand[K]. The fruit of the wild species is often less than 1cm in diameter, but named cultivars have considerably larger fruits up to 3cm in diameter[K]. Leaves- raw. The young and tender leaves can be eaten in salads[4]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Astringent;  Laxative;  Miscellany.

The fruit is laxative[7]. Stewed unripe gooseberries are used as a spring tonic to cleanse the system[4]. The leaves have been used in the treatment of gravel[4]. An infusion taken before the monthly periods is said to be a useful tonic for growing girls[4]. The leaves contain tannin and have been used as an astringent to treat dysentery and wounds[7].
Other Uses
Cosmetic;  Miscellany.

The fruit pulp is used cosmetically in face-masks for its cleansing effect on greasy skins[7].
Cultivation details                                         
Easily grown in a moisture retentive but well-drained loamy soil of at least moderate quality[11, 200]. Growth is often poor in light soils, whilst heavy soils encourage soft growth and excess vigour[200]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 6.5[200], though it can grow well in more acid or alkaline soils[K]. It is important to add plenty of humus to chalky soil[K]. Plants are quite tolerant of shade though do not fruit so well in such a position[11]. They can be grown against east or north facing walls[37]. The fruit of plants on north facing walls will ripen later, thus extending the fruiting season, though yields will be lower[K]. Plants dislike very hot weather[37]. Dormant plants are hardy to about -20°c[200], but the flowers and young fruits are susceptible to frost damage Plants are very susceptible to potash deficiency[1], especially when grown on alkaline soils[K]. Gooseberries are commonly cultivated in temperate regions for their edible fruit, there are many named varieties[183, 200]. Birds love the fruit and so some protection is often required, especially if the fruit is being grown to full ripeness[K]. Plants grow best in cool moist climates such as N. Europe[200]. Plants fruit best on one and two year old wood so any pruning should be to encourage vigorous new shoots[200]. Plants can harbour a stage of white pine blister rust, so should not be grown in the vicinity of pine trees[155]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification at between 0 and 5°c and should be sown as early in the year as possible[113, 164]. Under normal storage conditions the seed can remain viable for 17 years or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[78, 113]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, preferably with a heel of the previous year's growth, November to February in a cold frame or sheltered bed outdoors[78, 200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant.
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[155]Arnberger. L. P. Flowers of the Southwest Mountains.
A lovely little pocket guide to wild plants in the southern Rockies of America.
[164]Bird. R. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 4.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. A good article on Yuccas, one on Sagebrush (Artemesia spp) and another on Chaerophyllum bulbosum.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Dr. Tom Beatty,DD,BFHM Wed Aug 26 2009
Why is Ribes Grossularia not documented on this site?
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