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What Is Gooseberry Pie?

A. Elms
A. Elms

Gooseberry pie is a pie that is comprised of a traditional pie crust and a fruit filling of gooseberries mixed with sugar. Gooseberries are native to Europe, northwestern Africa and southwestern Asia. They usually are hairy and green, although they occasionally can be found in smooth and red or purple varieties as well. Gooseberries are most often described as tasting like very sour grapes, which is why sugar is considered to be a crucial ingredient for a gooseberry pie.

It is not clear how gooseberries first received their name, although many people believe that the name originated from the German word krausbeere or the French word groseille, both of which are used as loose names for the berry. There is some evidence that the berry’s name derives from the fact that the plant was once commonly grown on the same grounds that geese lived on. Gooseberries thrive best in coastal and lakeside environments but also can be found in drier plains environments. The plants flourish as far north as Scotland and Norway, and many people believe that the berry’s flavor becomes sweeter with increasing latitude.

Whole gooseberries.
Whole gooseberries.

Recipes for gooseberry pie have been carried down from generation to generation and commonly vary in specifics, but the majority of recipes contain the same basic ingredients. The pie filling typically is made with egg, flour, sugar and gooseberries. This mixture is poured over pie crust, topped with a layer of crust, then can be sprinkled with brown sugar. It is baked until the crust becomes golden brown.

Gooseberry cut in half.
Gooseberry cut in half.

Recorded references to gooseberry pie have been found as early as the 17th century. In 1660, the romantic poet Robert Southey wrote an ode to the pie, expressing his deep affection for the distinctive dessert. The English village of Galmpton is famously known for holding a Gooseberry Pie Fair. Roads are closed for the annual fair so that large amounts of individuals can roam the streets with ease to visit food stalls and participate in various events.

Discussion Comments


My mom makes a gooseberry pie once or twice a year and we use canned gooseberries. I've seen them all over the country in grocery stores in the Oregon fruit cans. Google them. No one ever knows what I'm talking about when I talk about gooseberry pie but swear to God it's a hidden gem. So freaking tasty. Every once in a while (at least in California), you'll find fresh ones in the supermarkets.


First of all, I rarely hear about gooseberries. Second, next time the Holidays come around, I think I might give it a try. Despite not knowing what to expect, it's always good to try new things, and this is no exception. However, I wonder how my friends will react when I tell them I'm making gooseberry pie during the holiday season, ha ha.

@Krunchyman - If you happen to be looking for gooseberries, reread the first paragraph again, which says that they're native to Europe, Africa and Asia. However, maybe you can have them imported to the United States.


Even though the origin of the word gooseberry isn't clear, it shows that words don't always mean what they sound like. In this case, gooseberries have little or nothing to do with geese. While the article does speculate that it was grown on the same ground as geese, that's speculation for the most part. Sometimes, the origin of a word can remain unknown for years on end, and its true origin will always be a mystery.


Overall, gooseberries seem to be one of the more obscure fruits. You don't hear about it too often, and when you do, it's in reference to something else. However, this article does a good job at informing those who aren't familiar with the fruit. Also, I wonder where you can buy it in stores. Considering how it doesn't seem as popular as other fruits, it may be something you'd only find at a specialty shop.

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    • Whole gooseberries.
      Whole gooseberries.
    • Gooseberry cut in half.
      Gooseberry cut in half.
    • Gooseberries still on the bush.
      Gooseberries still on the bush.