Gooseberry





The Gooseberry (Ribes grossularia) gets its name from kruesbar,

which signifies a cross, in allusion to the triple spine of the fruit

or berry, which is commonly cruciform. This is a relic of its first

floral days, preserved like the apron of the blacksmith at Persia,

when he came to the throne. The term grossularia implies a

resemblance of the fruit to grossuli, small unripe figs.



[224] Frequently the shrub, which belongs to the same natural order

as the Currant (Ribes), grows wild in the hedges and thickets of

our Eastern counties, bearing then only a small, poor berry, and not

supposed to be of native origin.



In East Anglia it is named Fabe, Feap, Thape, or Theab berry,

probably by reason of a mistake which arose through an incorrect

picture. The Melon, in a well-known book of Tabernaemontanus,

was figured to look like a large gooseberry, and was headed,

Pfebe. And this name was supposed by some wiseacre to be that

of the gooseberry, and thus became attached to the said fruit.

Loudon thinks it signifies Feverberry, because of the cooling

properties possessed by the gooseberry, which is scarcely probable.



In Norfolk, the green, unripe fruit is called Thape, and the

schoolboys in that county well know Thape pie, made from green

Gooseberries. The French call the fruit Groseille, and the Scotch,

Grosert. It contains, chemically, citric acid, pectose, gum, sugar,

cellulose, albumen, mineral matter, and water. The quantity of

flesh-forming constituents is insignificant. Its pectose, under

heat, makes a capital jelly.



In this country, the Gooseberry was first cultivated at the time of the

Reformation, and it grows better in Great Britain than elsewhere,

because of the moist climate. The original fruit occurred of the hairy

sort, like Esau, as the Uva crispa of Fuschius, in Henry the

Eighth's reign; and there are now red, white, and yellow cultivated

varieties of the berry.



When green and unripe, Gooseberries are employed in a sauce,

together with bechamel, and aromatic spices, this being taken with

mackerel and other rich fish, as an acid corrective condiment. Also,

from the juice of the [225] green fruit, which cureth all

inflammations, may be concocted an excellent vinegar.



Gooseberry-fool, which comes to our tables so acceptably in early

summer, consists of the unripe fruit foule (that is, crushed or

beaten up) with cream and milk. Similarly the French have a foule

des pommes, and a foule des raisins. To play old Gooseberry

with another man's property is conjectured to mean smashing it up,

and reducing it, as it were, to Gooseberry-fool.



The young and tender leaves of the shrub, if eaten raw in a salad;

drive forth the gravel. And from the red Gooseberry may be

prepared an excellent light jelly, which is beneficial for sedentary,

plethoric, and bilious subjects. This variety of the fruit, whether

hairy or smooth, is grown largely in Scotland, but in France it is

little cared for.



The yellow Gooseberry is richer and more vinous of taste, suiting

admirably, when of the smooth sort, for making Gooseberry wine;

which is choice, sparkling, and wholesome, such as that wherewith

Goldsmith's popular Vicar of Wakefield used to regale Farmer

Flamborough and the blind piper, having lost neither the recipe nor

the reputation. They were soothed in return by the touching ballads

of Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night, and Cruel Barbara

Allen.



Gooseberry Shows are held annually in Lancashire, and excite keen

competition; but after exhibition, the successful berries are topped

and tailed, so as to disqualify them from being shown elsewhere.

Southey, in The Doctor, speaks about an obituary notice in a

former Manchester newspaper, of a man who bore a severe illness

with Christian fortitude, and was much esteemed among Gooseberry

growers. Prizes are given for the [226] biggest and heaviest berries,

which are produced with immense pains as to manuring, and the

growth of cool chickweed around the roots of the bushes. At the

same time each promising berry is kept submerged in a shallow

vessel of water placed beneath it so as to compel absorption of

moisture, and thus to enlarge its size. Whimsical names, such as

Golden Lion, The Jolly Angler, and Crown Bob, etc., are

bestowed on the prize fruit. Cuttings from the parent plant of a prize

Gooseberry become in great request; and thus the pedigree scions of

a single bush have been known to yield as much as thirty-two

pounds sterling to their possessor. The Gooseberry Book is a

regular Manchester annual.



A berry weighing as heavy as thirty-seven penny-weight has been

exhibited; and a story is told of a Middleton weaver, who, when a

thunder-storm was gathering, lay awake as if for his life, and at the

first patter of rain against the window panes, rushed to the rescue of

his Gooseberry bushes with his bed quilt. Green Gooseberries will

help to abate the strange longings which sometimes beset pregnant

women.



In Devon the rustics call Gooseberries Deberries, and in Sussex

they are familiarly known to village lads as Goosegogs.



An Irish cure for warts is to prick them with a Gooseberry thorn

passed through a wedding ring.



By some subtle bodily action wrought through a suggestion made to

the mind, warts undoubtedly disappear as the result of this and

many another equally trivial proceeding; which being so, why not

the more serious skin affections, and larger morbid growths?



The poet Southey wrote a Pindaric Ode upon a Gooseberry [227]

Pie, beginning Gooseberry Pie is best, with the refrain:--



And didst thou scratch thy tender arms,

Oh, Jane I that I should dine?





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