When we took on Plot 16 there was very little growing amongst the tall weeds there except a sage hedge and two apple trees.
Our neighbouring plotter at that time was Angela from Papua New Guinea.
One day we spotted Angela digging up her gooseberry bush and then wheeling it up in a barrow towards the skip.
“Are you throwing that bush out, Angela?”
“Yes, the fruits are sour and I don’t know what to do with them, so I’m getting rid of it”
“But you can make jams and puddings, Angela!”
“No, it’s ok I’m going to dump it…”
“Do you mind if we have then?”
” Ok then”.
So we took the bush, dug a home for it in the third bed from the front of the plot and watered it in. We didn’t really hold out much hope for its survival. But the following year the bush yielded 15 lbs of fruit. We made a lot of jam that year and were still eating it for considerably longer.
One Sunday afternoon, Sarah, a biologist, who had a plot up the other side of the site, came down with a bottle of homemade gooseberry wine for Paul. She had heard that he had made the decision to set up his own architectural practice and the wine was to say congratulations and good luck. We forgot about the wine for a bit but when we tried it were amazed at how delicious it was! That was enough for us to ask Sarah if she would be up for teaching how to make it.
That summer we made both gooseberry and raspberry wine under the tutelage of Sarah, who was to become our “Country Wine Guru”. We made rose hip wine (some rose hips from the allotment site and some from Huelva in Spain which I had dried). It looked awful but which cleared and kept us in cooking wine for a year.
For two years in a row our gooseberry bush was affected by sawflies while we were away in Spain – the grubs stripped all leaves. Paul did a severe pruning and so last year we harvested less than a 1 lb of gooseberries. I read on the internet that sawflies don’t like foxgloves so every time I found a foxglove that had self seeded on the plot I would plant it near the gooseberry bush and that, along with the pruning, seemed to do the trick and the bush is in rude health.
Happily, this year we’ve harvested about 17 kilos, are in the process of making 2 gallons of grozet wine with our hairy grapes and there are still enough in the freezer to make some jam and some puddings!
Apparently Angela’s gooseberry bush like our windy, hilltop site.
© Jan Nimmo 2015
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