Do you ever wonder about the person who first had the temerity to put gooseberries in a pie? Brilliant! And right now, early June, is the time to pick them.

Gooseberries grow wild all over the state, and foraging for wild gooseberries is allowed on conservation area lands. You might also find some at farmers’ markets in early June.

Patrick Byers, a regional field specialist with University of Missouri Extension, based at Marshfield, says Missouri used to be a major gooseberry producer, having produced more than 800,000 quarts of gooseberries in 1899, according to the 1900 national census. The Missouri gooseberry even has the state in its Latin genus and species name: Ribes missouriense.

“Today, we probably have less than five acres,” he says. “Most berry producers will say they have a few rows ‘on the side’ of their main berry crops,” he adds. Most commercial gooseberries are grown in the Northwest United States and canned.

Patrick loves gooseberries and eats them fresh, right off the bush as well as when they’ve turned red and ripened. The best time to pick them, he says, is when they’ve turned from a grass-green to a golden- or yellow-green to get the tart berry for pies. As the gooseberries turn to pink or purple or red, they become sweeter as the acidity of the berry drops, and they can be used in jams. “I never met a gooseberry I didn’t like,” he says.

His favorite treats are a blue-goose pie, made with blueberries, and a rich vanilla custard pie topped with the tart green, cooked gooseberries. Gooseberries can be frozen, and then the stems fall right off, although gooseberry lovers will do the painstaking work of destemming them while they are fresh.

“Ripe red gooseberries would also make a nice local replacement for cranberries in salads,” says Marilyn Odneal, horticulture specialist at the Mountain Grove Campus of Missouri State University’s Fruit Experiment Station. The Missouri Department of Conservation website also recommends using leaves of gooseberries in tossed salads or for tea.

Gooseberries make nice landscape plants, too. They are thorny and resistant to deer and rabbit, with clusters of greenish-white, slender flowers in April and May. The leaves turn an attractive reddish-brown to purple in the fall. Reddish-brown branches add winter interest. Gooseberries are unusual for a berry plant, in that they can grow in partial shade, Marilyn notes.

“People who like gooseberries love them,” says Martha Bohner, who with her husband Earnie, runs Persimmon Hill Farm at Lampe. “We normally offer a few rows of gooseberries on the side,” Martha says, as part of their you-pick berry operation. But this year, they have replanted the gooseberries, and they won’t be ready for a couple of years. Persimmon Hill Farm has nine acres of berries, mostly blueberries, as well as a few blackberries and elderberries.

Still, the farm makes and sells gooseberry jam, and you can order from its inventory: Gooseberry Black Walnut Jam and Nutty Blue Goose Jam, which combines black walnuts, blueberries, and gooseberries. Visit

Gooseberry Crumble


6 cups washed and stemmed gooseberries (you can use frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons of unsalted, chilled butter cut in to small pieces

Gently mix the above ingredients until the gooseberries are covered with the dry ingredients.
Dot with butter and pour into a 9X13 inch baking pan with sides.


2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick of unsalted butter cut in ¼ inch pieces

Mix dry ingredients together.
Cut flour in a few pieces at a time until crumbled and about the size of peas. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or you fingers.
Cover the gooseberry mixture with the oat mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees on the middle rack for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges.

Gooseberry Custard Pie


15 vanilla crème-filled cookies
¼ cup melted butter

Place cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Pour in melted butter and pulse until mixed.
Place cookie mixture in a 9-inch pie plate.
Press the crumbs up the sides of the pie plate, then firmly press with the bottom of a cup measure, making sure the crust is even on the bottom and up the sides, and set aside.


3 eggs and one egg yolk
1/3 cup of sugar, plus ¼ cup for gooseberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ heavy cream
4 cups gooseberries, washed and stemmed

Whisk eggs until broken up, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well.
Toss the gooseberries in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar.
Place the sugar-coated gooseberries in the bottom of the crust.
Carefully pour the custard over them.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees on the middle rack for 25 to 35 minutes, until the custard is set.
Remove and place on a wire rack until cool.
Refrigerate for one hour until chilled.
Serve with whipped cream.