3rd August 2004. Berries and Drupes.
The blackberry also known, in country lore as bramble, dewberry, thimbleberry and lawers, is little picked from hedgerows nowadays: another loss to childhood memory.
Blow a Raspberry, Beat about the Gooseberry Bush, To Play Gooseberry, Born under the Gooseberry Bush, all relate to the Ribes Genus.
The Genus includes all edible currants, blackberry, gooseberry (gooze-gogs up north), raspberry, black and red currant in the Family Rosaceae, which includes the rose.(1)
In fact neither blackberries (Rubus fruiticosus), nor raspberries (Rubus idaeus) -from Mount Ida of the Olympian gods-are berries, but drupes as each drupelet contains a seed.
Gooseberry growing was the favourite pastime of the evolutionary scientist, Charles Darwin, who grew 53 varieties.
However from the 18th century onwards, it was less a pastime, more a religion for the working men of the north of England, Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Competitions were held to find heaviest individual fruit from varieties with robust working-class names as Hairy Red, Shiner, Thumper, Lancashire Lad and Weasel.(2)
These were all varieties bred from Ribes uva-crispa which had been naturalised since the early middle ages and meticulously weighed in drams and grains on apothecaries’ scales.
The prize fruits are raised by removing all other fruit from the bush and submitted in a sealed box in a bid to attain the prize gooseberry, with a zeal of the north-east ‘Geordies’ for leeks,
One of the few Gooseberry Clubs surviving is the Egton Bridge, Whitby Gooseberry Club, which held its annual meeting Today in 2004.
By 2012 there remained only seven annual gooseberry shows left, mainly around Goostrey in Cheshire, as yet another innocent link to our past seems doomed to extinction.(3)
(1) Not to be confused with currants which are dried grapes.
(2) In 1929 Edward Bunyard said in his Anatomy of the Dessert that ‘the plebeian origin of the gooseberry has been. I fear, a handicap to its appreciation at cultured tables’.
(3) Linked by the mid-Cheshire Gooseberry growers Association. In 1845 there were nationally 171 clubs, by 1915 it was down to 8.
Ref: Daily Telegraph, QI series, September 8th, 2012.
Ref: love2learnallotmenting.co.uk/Images of gooseberries.