MY FIRST RUN-IN with a gooseberry was literally an accident. One summer day when I was about 12, I kaboinged right over the edge of our backyard trampoline into a prickly bush only a notch above a chain-link fence on the comfort scale. Until then it hadn’t occurred to me to do anything with the plump, hairy orbs other than throw them—but of course, all my rescuer could say was, “Hey, the gooseberries are ripe!” I rubbed my bottom and refused to taste.

Usually pale green or red with light stripes, gooseberries have a grapelike texture, but thinner, translucent skins. They gather in clumps on spiny stems, which makes them a bitch to pick (or sit on). But here in Puget Sound, where summers are sunny but not too hot, gooseberries prosper in late July and August—as long as the weather stays relatively dry.

Because they’re quite tart, gooseberries are great for jams and baked goods. Susan Schuh of Schuh Farms thinks pie is always the best option. “Just make sure you get enough sugar,” she adds.

Both Schuh Farms and Grouse Mountain Farm sell gooseberries at Seattle-area farmers markets; supplies are often limited, however, so if you see some, buy them. Some chefs, like Matt Costello at Whidbey Island’s Inn at Langley, treat them like cranberries in the kitchen. He freezes them for year-round jams and chutneys. “True gooseberry people, old English biddies, pick the blossom ends off and stick a toothpick in to get the seeds out,” says Costello. “I say if you don’t like the seeds, that’s what the strainer’s for.”

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