Tension is mounting in the ‘goosegog’ community for the ‘Gathering’ tomorrow when about 25 Goostrey Gooseberry growers pick their berries, with witnesses, ready for the show on Saturday from 1pm at The Crown Inn, Goostrey. All are welcome to watch!
But will anyone have any berries left? Reports are a number of seasoned growers have been completely wiped out or have lost potential show winners due to the weather blowing hot and cold. Such are the joys of competitive gooseberry growing…
In the Mid Cheshire Gooseberry Association Societies, on the day before the show, each club divides its members into groups of three to witness the picking of the Gooseberries, the “Gathering”. After picking, they are boxed in to the different categories of colours, which are: Red, Green, Yellow and White, they are also split between twins, triplets (which are rare) and there is a category for the largest berry – “The Premier”.
Once boxed it is tied with string and sealed with hot sealing wax – all this is witnessed and checked. The growers take their boxes home and leave them overnight in a cool place ready for showing the next day (berries do run the risk of splitting or weeping overnight in the box and it is only when the boxes are opened in front of all the members of the show that their condition is known, split or weeping berries cannot be shown). The shows usually start in the afternoon, when all the growers gather. At the show the ‘seals’ are checked, boxes opened and the weighing begins, with all the members present. There are several classes; first category is the largest berry (Premier Class) followed by the twins, triplets, colours and then the championship plates (the plates are 12 berries of each colour).
Berries are then displayed in special cabinets.
Each class winner gets a prize and there is a prize for the most points and trophies. Gooseberries are measured using the old tray weights of “penny weights and grains”.
Today only a few Gooseberry Societies remain. The oldest being Egton Bridge Gooseberry Society . The remaining eight in the UK in Cheshire centred around Goostrey village and form the Mid Cheshire Gooseberry Association. The newest one being Skillinge in Sweden. Prior to the picking of Gooseberries a lot of hard work is put into the growing with many secrets; what to feed, how to prune etc and if tips and secrets are not passed down to the next generation, often go to the grave with the growers.. until now.. For info on competitive Gooseberry growing and its history: click…. https://goosegogs.wordpress.com/history-2/
To save and preserve this culture before it disappears, The Blackden Trust houses some of the archives of the Cheshire societies and is developing facilities for their study in the library of The Old Medicine House: The Blackden Trust/gooseberries