What Do Gooseberries Taste Like?

Gooseberries are an odd little fruit; yes that’s right, they are classed as a fruit and not a vegetable. While they may closely resemble a while grape, they certainly are nowhere near as diverse and so even the most adept chefs struggle to figure out what to do with them.  

There are even some places where growing gooseberries is illegal; but why is this? Are these fruits dangerous or is it more to do with protecting native flora?

In this guide to the gooseberry, we will be letting you in on the secrets of this fruit and discovering the mystery behind its taste.  

Can You Eat A Gooseberry? 

Yes, you can eat gooseberries but there are times that they may not be good for you and we will look at this in a little more detail later on. However, eating gooseberries is a great way to incorporate your five fruits a day and when they are prepared correctly, they can make a wonderful snack.  

For the most part. Gooseberries are served with the tops and bottoms cut off. There is no reason that you cannot eat this part of the berry but it may have a slightly woody taste that some people do not like.

Once prepared, gooseberries are actually pretty versatile. It is entirely possible to eat them on their own but they can also be used to complement a selection of other dishes.  

They are very popular when eaten in a fruit salad or even a leafy salad. What’s more, they go very well as a topping for things like cereals and yogurt.  

Why Are Gooseberries Illegal? 

You may have heard that gooseberries are illegal. While this is true to some extent, it is certainly not a blanket thing. Way back in 1911, there was a ban put in place on US soil stating that no ribes were to be grown.

Gooseberries are ribes which are essentially a particular genus of plant that bears currants and can be used for either decoration or eating.  

The reason that this type of plant was banned is to do with its ability to spread what is known as white pine disease, which can be incredibly contagious among plant communities. Moving forward to 1966, and much of this ban was lifted with only certain species of ribes being banned in the US. 

Today, there are certain areas where it is still not permitted to plant ribes, including gooseberries. However, there are many local regulations which will dictate whether you can grow them with North Carolina being one of the most well-known restricted areas.  

What Do Gooseberries Taste Like? 

To look at them, gooseberries appear to be very similar to grapes, in fact, a lot of people would confuse the two. However, they are different and as such, gooseberries have their own flavor. That being said, it has often been compared to sour grapes. 

These fruits are something of an acquired taste and have a zesty edge that reminds many of citrus fruits like lemon. That being said, if your palette allows, you may pick up on more subtle notes within the gooseberry’s flavor that are more akin to a tropical fruit and rather sweet. 

In terms of texture, it is not uncommon for the gooseberry to be compared to a cherry tomato. The skin is thin and firm but easy to bite into and the inside is soft and juicy. There are seeds in a gooseberry and these are slightly crunchy but very easy to chew.  

What does gooseberry jam taste like? 

One of the most popular ways of preparing gooseberries is to make them into a jam. This can be spread on various foods such as toast or dolloped onto creamy desserts and delivers a tart, zingy taste that is refreshing and ideal for summer.  

Are Gooseberries Poisonous To Humans? 

The leaves of the gooseberry plant are known to contain hydrogen cyanide; this can sound pretty horrific since we know that this is a harmful chemical.

However, in very small quantities, it has been shown to have positive effects on certain respiratory conditions but in larger quantities, it can cause death. For this reason, you should never eat the leaves of the plant.  

The berries are, for the most part, harmless. However, as with a lot of other fruits, if they are eaten in excess, this could cause some digestive upset. Most commonly, this might cause things like nausea and diarrhea.   

What Can I Substitute For Gooseberry? 

If you find a recipe that you just have to make that includes gooseberries, it can feel a little irritating when you realise that you don’t have any access to them.

The good news is that there are things you can use in their place that are just as tasty and as healthy.  

You want to stick along the same lines in terms of taste, keeping to slightly tart foods that will replicate the effects of gooseberries. Some of the most effective options would be things like red currants, rhubarb and cranberries.  

It is also worth keeping in mind that while many people try to substitute gooseberries for blueberries, this won’t work in terms of flavor.

Normally, the darker a berry is in color, the sweeter it will be; the light it is, the more tart it will be so try to go for berries that are lighter in color.  


Gooseberries may be illegal to grow in certain parts of the United States but they are not illegal to eat. These small berries look a lot like grapes but have a much more zesty flavor and can be enjoyed on their own, as a jam, or as an accompaniment to other dishes.