There are some foods that need a little work to get the best from them, and in this hot-stepping world of ready meals, phone apps and instant gratification, at times it can seem an inconvenience. Spending time podding broad beans when a bag of pre-prepped supermarket veg could have you plonked in front of the TV in minutes seems madness to some, but history has shown that when the body is kept busy with a task that does not demand great concentration, the mind is freed to flex its lesser-used muscles in ways that a blaring TV will not allow. If you’ve hit a bit of a wall with a problem, give it a try. We’re not suggesting you’ll find the answer to world peace, but you might surprise yourself in other ways.
Gooseberries fall into this category of ‘too much of a hassle to bother’ for many. Their appeal is not instantly apparent, as anyone who has eaten one of these tart and rather hairy berries straight from the punnet will testify. However, those who do take time to discover the extent of their culinary possibilities reap many rewards. Don’t be fooled into thinking that gooseberries are only good for pud; nature has laid some helpful hints to help you plug their hidden depths of flavour in other ways. They ripen more or less as the first mackerel arrive off our coast, and a simple gooseberry sauce brings out flavours in both of these ingredients that you probably didn’t know were there. See our website for this and many more gooseberry-liberating recipes.
The gooseberry bushes here on our Devon farm are also something of an icon of what organic farming is about for us. When Guy planted his first acre, a fair few people predicted that without an arsenal of chemicals, disaster would come in the form of sawfly, a pest that attacks only gooseberries. For the first three years the bushes were indeed stripped bare, but eight years on, nature has established a balance and we have a mystery predator keeping the larvae in check. Overall, it’s evidence of the virtues of a long-term understanding of farming ecology, the subtle management of our environment and a little faith, as opposed to beating nature down with chemicals and sprays. It does not always work out so well, but we are very thankful that it has in the case of our gooseberries which, after all, are a very British harvest.