Well now’s the time to decide big ones or little ones, or should I say fewer, but bigger? For there is always that choice to make when growing fruit you can have lots of littlies or fewer better sized ones.
I suppose it could be, and has been carried to extremes, for hailing from a gooseberry competition area where size is everything, and pigeon egg size was considered small by some. The chosen few, and only those, were allowed to grow on, strictly guarded and feed by secret recipes to reach mega proportions until the day of the competition or the sad dialect lament “its bars-ted”. Yes, even for people from that area it took a minute or two to get your ear round the lament, as the hopes for the year were rendered void.
For a more reasoned approach I recommend thinning off about 15% now. Yes it’s more than some would say, but think of it as a deposit into the plant for next year when it will repay that extra. It also has an impact on the number of fruit you will pick, being bigger you will spend less time picking, washing, topping and tailing, and in a nice pie just off warm the taste seems just that little better especially with the juice.
There’s always something to be said about having a routine in picking the gooseberries, based on how they develop on the bush. The routine as outlined to me was to pick from the bottom first where the fruit are in shade, then to move onto the middle of the bush, before finishing off with the ones on the outer edges of the bush. This I was assured matches how the fruit stops improving and yes it does take discipline.
However with cooking gooseberries I tend to wait for the blackbirds to whisper in my ear when they are ready, or to be more precise start stripping the bush. It then becomes a race against the ravenous birds as I don’t net the cookers, but wait for the best judge of ripeness to call time.
Master Gardener Robert has lots more useful blogs to help you with your growing, just take a look at his page