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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Grower hails 'Holy Grail' of gooseberries

Graeme and his record berry
Graeme and his record berry

A man who has broken the world record for the heaviest gooseberry has described the achievement as "the Holy Grail of gooseberry growing".

Graeme Watson (59), from Ainthorpe, North Yorkshire, said it was a "good feeling" to break the record with his 64.56g (2.27oz) "little beauty".

However, he added that it was a "race against time" to submit the champion fruit to Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show before it lost too much weight.

"It was picked last night. I got my hands on it and thought, 'This is a good one'," Mr Watson said.

Nerves

"It was nice and ripe, which means they weigh a little bit more than an unripe one. When I got it on the scales, I couldn't believe how much it weighed.

"I had a bit of a sleepless night. The nerves were a bit jangly this morning, but I was trying not to show any emotion.

"It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime gooseberry for most growers. It's a good feeling. It's the Holy Grail of gooseberry growing."

Mr Watson said the fruit begins to lose weight from the moment it is picked.

"It was a race against time to get it to the show and get it officially weighed. I had to sweat it out to make sure it hadn't burst," he said.

"I had it in a box like a little mini-suitcase. A box padded inside and lined in egg trays.

"I had it on my knee in the car just in case we hit any potholes or cattle grids."

Mr Watson's gooseberry, a yellow variety called Mill- ennium, beating around 30 other competitors and the world record of 64.49g, which had stood since 2013.

He said the key to growing record-breaking gooseberries was "attention to detail".

"We have to keep the bushes healthy, keep pests off them, get the fertiliser requirements right," he said.

"I have to protect them when they're getting ripe. I use umbrellas to stop them getting wet and they don't particularly like hot sun."

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