Thursday, 17 March 2011

My Hedgerow

Along the top side of my workshop is a hedgerow, it is mostly Hawthorne but also Holly, Lime, a Sycamore sapling and Wild Gooseberry are growing.  A runner of Blackthorne keeps sprouting out of the hedge and persistently interrupts the neat line.  It is an old hedge, the hawthorne has thick, gnarled and twisted trunks and branches and all the growth is densely knitted.  A blackbird is building its nest in the thickest, tangliest centre.

The first to sprout fresh green spring shoots is the wild gooseberry.  I admire its tenacity, it is quite a straggly old stem and yet it bursts into life and pushes through, leading the way.  Very soon it is covered in tiny buds, pinkish, which are soon full open and powerfully fragrant.

Very quickly everyone knows about it, and the bees are busy.

Not that the gooseberry needs the bees' hungry attention, it is self-fertile.  The gooseberry we know today was cultivated from this wild gooseberry which was found in abundance in hedges (the bark not being liable to be eaten by rabbits on account of its prickles).   In 1573 William Turner mentioned it in his herbal, noting it for not only its medicinal properties, but for its use in cookery.  In another publication of 1750 directions are given for propagating, training and pruning the plants so as to bring the fruit to a large size - gooseberries the size of plums!

Locally we have the very famous and oldest surviving gooseberry show in the country, Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show.

Gerard recommends the unripe fruit to be used in broths, and says the ripe berries, if eaten by themselves "ingender raw and colde bloode".

Illustration from Wikipedia

The birds pick off the berries so fast when they are still tiny, I have never managed to try one.  I would like a bush or two in my vegetable plot as I love them, and to test the theory that they were named because geese like to eat them.  Or was it that goose meat goes well with gooseberry sauce?

1 comment:

  1. Lucky you having a nice old hedgerow Jennifer. Ours is a conifer sadly. I would quite like an elm one which could be kept trimmed to deter the dreaded disease.

    I am not going to have anything to do with gooseberries if there is a chance of them making my bloode raw and colde.


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