Prickly Gooseberry – Ribes Cynosbati: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Spiky Berry of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa,  micidji’minaga’wunj meaning “fuzzy fruit”, prickly gooseberry is a fuzzy wild currant. Spiky is more apt. Despite the soft flexible spikes on the fruit, it’s an edible and medicinal wild plant. And native to Ontario.

There are many ribes spp. to feature from Ontario. A couple are gooseberries. Prickly gooseberry (ribes cynosbati) is the common one, especially in moist woodlands, though it likes sandy soil too. I have some growing along my sandy driveway. Wild gooseberry (ribes hirtellum) is uncommon here, and favors low, moist shrubby sites.

Prickly Gooseberry - Ribes Cynosbati
Prickly Gooseberry – Ribes Cynosbati

Edible Uses of Prickly Gooseberry

All wild currants are edible raw, cooked or dried. They are all high in pectin, so perfect for jam and jellies. Tart gooseberries are wonderful in fruit pies. And like cranberries can be added to turkey stuffing, used in baking, and all matter of desserts.

The young tender leaves can be used in salads.

Green berries can be collected and left to ripen. They are thirst quenching on the trail, but can be quite acidic. And as for our most common, prickly, put the ripe berries into a bag and rub until the prickles are off. Emphasis on ripe. They’ll brush off easily if your timing is right.

The fruit is similar looking to wild cucumber – make sure to learn the difference.

Medicinal Uses of Prickly Gooseberry

Prickly Gooseberry is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Astringent and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a laxative and astringent wash or gargle.

Prickly Gooseberry - Ribes Cynosbati
Prickly Gooseberry – Ribes Cynosbati

Alternative Uses of Honeyblobs

The spikes can be used to remove splinters.

Growing Ribes Cynosbati

Cuttings, seeds, or purchasing from native plant nurseries are all ways to obtain gooseberries.

For food, planting the less common native gooseberry (ribes hirtellum) is recommended. For biodiversity and use by pollinators and wildlife, either are wonderful.

In rare areas, where pine is being farmed for pulp, planting ribes spp. may be against the law because it can pass blister rust fungus to pine. For the same reason, best plant it and especially black currants away from your pine trees.


Consume in moderation. Overdoing it can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

A Modern Herbal (Volume 1, A-H): The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs & Trees with Their Modern Scientific Uses

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

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