Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Small Fruits & Berries

Currants and Gooseberries

by Paul Simon


Ribe spp.

Currants and Gooseberries are attractive shrubs known for their tasty, colorful fruit that can be eaten fresh off the plant or harvested for making jams, jellies and pies.

About This Plant

Currants and Gooseberries are multi-stemmed, hardy, fast growing deciduous shrubs approximately 5-6 feet high and wide, with maple-shaped leaves, clusters of flowers in the early spring and colorful fruit into the fall season (Hardiness Zones 3-8). Currants are most widely used for jelly, but also used in making sauces and pies. Birds are highly attracted to these colorful, fruit-bearing plants.

Special Features

Perfection - a red currant with a bushy upright form, small to average red colored fruit.
Red Lake - a vigorous red currant resistant to mildew, with small dark red berries.
White Imperial (Ribes rubrum) - a hardy, dense, spreading white currant, producing small berries.
Boskoop Giant - a vigorous, low-branching black currant with flavorful berries; requires a pollinator.
Buffalo Currant (Ribes aureum) - very hardy with a wide, weeping form, tolerant of a range of soil conditions, showy yellow and fragrant blooms, with ripe pea-sized, glossy, brown-purple berries.
Jostaberry (Ribes hirtellum) - a hybrid of black currant and American gooseberry, the mildew-resistant Jostaberry has a tall upright form with glossy foliage, and small, dark purplish fruit.

Site Selection

Currants grow well in cool regions with humid summers and a winter chilling period. In warmer areas, they prefer morning sunlight followed by part-shade, conditions such as those on the north or east side of a building. They can withstand dense shade conditions, but they won't bear as much fruit. Currants can also withstand ocean breezes but are susceptible to leaf burn from the salt air.

Planting Instructions

Plants are sold both bare-root and in pots. Set out bare-root plants in early spring, potted plants anytime. Space them about 6 feet apart in well-drained, slightly acid soil.

Care

In late winter, fertilize with compost or aged manure, then add an organic mulch, such as straw, in early summer to help keep roots cool and soil moist. Once the fruit colors, let it hang for 3 weeks for fresh eating. Yields vary depending on the selected variety, location and growing conditions.

Annual pruning in the late winter will help increase the berry yield and aesthetic form of your shrub. Prune out broken or drooping branches. Intense sunlight may burn the leaf growth and a reduction in leaf size and quantity may indicate the plant is under water stress. Watch out for changing cooler temperatures that may cause your currants to contract powdery mildew, a white fungus that coats leaves and can develop on the fruits too. Cut off and remove infected portions of the plant. Consider purchasing certified disease-free varieties and plant them further apart to encourage plenty of air movement between bushes to encourage healthy growth.
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