Unfamiliar with Gooseberries, Jostaberries etc

canadianplantMay 13, 2012

Im trying to create an edible garden. Concidering I live in what most people would call a "harsh" climate, I am relatively limited to growing a smallish number of plants.

This has lead me to find hardy fruiting shubs (I have discovered there are a multitude of fruit trees that will make it here, so no problem there). Of course I have the must have raspberries, blueberries, and blackbarries. I have only recently been made aware of the "forgotten" barries (in NA): Josta, current, goose, boison and a few that have escaped my memory. So it has left me with the following questions:

a)Its hard to find good information about flavor. What do currents, and jostaberries taste like, or similar to?

b)Can anyone recommend any type of small edible shrub, hardy to zone 4, maybe zone 5 (we get reliable snow in the winter) that I didnt mention? Maybe something native, hard to find, extra tasty, or just plain forgotten about?

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In addition to the currants, gooseberries, etc, there are juneberries/saskatoons and honey berries or haskaps. I'm sorry I can't comment on flavor, as mine aren't bearing yet. Check out "Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden" by Lee Reich, it's an interesting read and full of lots of different unusual fruits.
I guess the juneberries aren't terribly small shrubs, though "Fergie" isn't supposed to grow taller than 5 ft. Honey berries are supposed to taste something like blueberries, but there have been lots of differing opinions on that. I'll let you know in a month, when my first ones are ripe!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 8:22PM
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Ah yeah. I have a seedling saskatoon, wont be ready for a few more months. They are apparently extremely varied from seed, some getting 3 feet tall, some topping 40 feet!

I have only recently learned about "haskap"/honeyberry. It would do very well here. The hard part is getting a decent source for it.

Thats a great suggestion for some reading as well. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:33AM
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My gooseberry Poorman tastes very good for fresh eating right off the bush, balanced tart and sweet flavor, beautiful red/deep pink berries. I am not too impressed with currents, maybe it is good for the juice. I have black, red, and white. My Josta is bearing this year, once I tasted the berry, I will post a report.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Thanks olympia. Ive heard many conflicting reports of how currents taste. Im assuming its "aquired" eaten fresh, but are VERY good for james, jellies, preservatives and baking (Im guessing like cranberries, cept sweeter).

Just planted my Pixwell Gooseberries, Boysenberries, and Josta.

Keep the info commin please!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:03PM
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I have many different varieties of red and black currants as well as gooseberries. I've pulled my Josta berries as they were unreliable and poor bearers. I did like the flavor of them though. Of the dozen or more gooseberries I've tried, I would recommend Poorman, Hinnomaki Red,and Invicta over all of them. For red currants, I would probably go with Rovada and Jonkheer van Tets--and I suppose Red Lake isn't too bad. For blacks, I would go w/Minaj Smyriou and Ben Sarek--Consort is pretty good too.

Most people in my area like gooseberries green (unripe) for pies and jam. I use currants for jellies, juice, and dried for baking.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:49PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants are all fine eaten fresh and raw providing they are TOTALLY ripe. A good dessert gooseberry is equal to or superior to a sweet muscat grape imo. These are certainly not 'forgotten' fruits in the UK. Black currants are the basis of one of the most popular soft drinks here and are used in various candies. It is a popular flavour for cough sweets and syrups.

Trying to describe the taste is difficult but none of them are like cranberries. Black and red currants are different species, need different pruning and do not taste similar.

I have given up on Jostas because the bushes are huge and the crop small.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 2:32PM
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I'm sorry to tell you, but Pixwell is supposed to be the worst tasting gooseberry :( I just planted Poorman, Hinnomaki Red, Hinnomaki Yellow, and Blck Velvet gooseberries. I'm sure I'll need to wait til next year to taste those. My Pink Champagne currant is supposed to be as good as grapes when fully ripe, it has blossoms so we will see if it set any fruit this year. I planted Rovada, Jonkheer van Tets (early bloomer, often damaged by frosts, apparently), and a random white currant (perhaps Blanka).

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 2:59PM
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I managed to read up a bit more on Jostaberry. They apparently need to be cut down by half every year, and need cool roots, other wise they drop fruit early. Well see how it goes. Its all learning anyways.

I see some agreement on types of currents as well. I dont think I seen any named cultivars, except "red lake". There are Ribes species native here, but I dont recall anyone here harvesting them, or using them.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 6:52PM
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glenn_10 zone 4b/5a NewBrunswick,Can.

my fellow canadian he he he, I grow pixwell too and everyone here likes them.Poorman, hinnomaki red are very good also.I grow black velvet and josta too but will only get to try them later this summer so can't comment on the flavor yet.
Romance series bush cherries are probably a safe bet,I planted some last year that were measly 2 inch tall way over priced plugs which are now 3 feet tall in one growing season! Hardy kiwi do very well for me and taste great!If want to try kiwi send me a PM in the fall and I can send you some.
How long is your growing season? you can probaly grow some of the shorter season grapes.Saskatoons are really good too, I have a lot of wild ones growing on my property some are bushes and some like the one in my back yard are more like trees and have 6 inch diameter trunks! I actually bought some named varieties last year, thiessen,honeywood and JB30...... hopefully they will taste as good as the wild ones.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 7:33PM
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Black Down is my favorite black currant out of many different varieties. Rovada is my best red/white currant. I strongly prefer now black currents for fresh eating. Red/white were my favorites when I was a kid. All currants are great for jams and other preserves. As for gooseberries, I am still looking for gooseberries that would be comparable in taste to gooseberries grown in my home place back in Europe. None tastes as good to me :(

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I bought 10 Northline Serviceberry,2 year old seedlings from Burntridge earlier this year.They are the shrub variety and suppose to be very good tasting.Brady

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 10:12PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I think Josta mainly sells as an oddity, like red-fleshed apples, black apricots, flat peaches, etc. I grew it and Orus 8, another goose/currant cross, and believe time and money is better spent elsewhere. Orus 8 is a lot better tasting than Josta if you still want to try one of them. Some of these unusual fruits are very good, but even the mediocre ones stay around in nurseries just because they are unusual and generate sales.

My favorite black, red, and goose are Minaj Smyriou, Rovada, and Poorman. I am also growing Black Down following Olga's past recommendation but it has yet to fruit. Olga, I also got a Kokusa mulberry following your recommendation of that one.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:22AM
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the gooseberries here (eg Poorman, Pixwell) are a different species than the one grown in Europe. The European one is rarely, if ever, available because it is a vector for a major pest (IIRC, white pine rust). Try only the red variety of American gooseberries, as they are sweeter than the green. Green gooseberries are not necessarily unripe, the colour of the ripe fruit varies by variety.

If you want to know what black currant tastes like, pick up a bottle of Ribena from the grocery. I love black currants, but some folks hate 'em.

What about highbush cranberry? We used to forage wood strawberry, blackberry, sloe, some kind of bullace plum & elderberry (the last MUST be cooked). Not all are native, but are probably hardy for you.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Glen - I have Actinidia "arctic kiwi" and "issai". I also have Himrod grape, venessa, valiant and 5 pots of seedling vitis riparia. Ill have to see how successful these are before getting anymore.

Freki - I have "adams" elderberry. I thought it was a gonner. The hedges were way taller, and shaded it out, that and some show crushed it, cause it was so small. It regrew from the roots and is doing much better this year.

Thanks for the suggestions to everyone else. Ive thought about getting some type of mongolian cherry, since they are 4 to 6 feet. I have a long lost to take with me next time i grab some plants.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 2:47PM
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Scot, I hope you will like Black Down and Kokusa. I really like the taste of Black Down even when it is grown in partial shade (4-5 hours of sun). Most currants have to be in full sun to develope sweet taste in my experience. Kokusa is unbelievably productive. It is not as good tasting as real southern mulberries (morus nigra, etc), but is still quite good to my taste and it is amazingly happy here in MD.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 7:08PM
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glenn_10 zone 4b/5a NewBrunswick,Can.

I have vanessa and himrod which I need to lay down on the ground for the winter.The issai kiwi is probably not going to do well either as most nurseries have it listed as a zone 6. I have an issai growing on the warm side of my house next to a hardy red arguta,both plants where planted last year.Issai had 3 feet of die back while the hardy red had none.We only had a low of minus 22C(-8F),in your climate I would stick with the kolomikta.For me the kolomikta start to ripen on the vine in july while the arguta start at the end of September/October. The valiant grape is a good choice and so are the river grapes although they are awful to my taste.If your season is long enough with good heat you can grow some better varieties of grapes.


Here is a link that might be useful: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg091538118923.html

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 7:16PM
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