Currants and Gooseberries

Currants and gooseberries are among the most beautiful of the small fruits, but they are good home garden shrubs for other reasons as well.

You won't often see fresh fruit in the market, since crops from the limited commercial plantings go to processors for commercial jellies and canned fruits. But since the plants are ornamental, easy to care for, and productive, northern gardeners can tuck a few among other shrubs for the bloom, fruit, and fall color. The crop can be used for jelly, pie, or just fresh eating for those who like a tart fruit.

We discuss only the red and white currants of the species Ribes sativum and the gooseberries Ribes grossularia and R. hirlellum. The black currant, Ribes nigrum, so aromatic and rich in vitamin C, was banned almost everywhere in the past because it is part of a disease cycle of five-needle pines. Spores of white pine blister rust from miles away spend part of their lives on the currants and then transfer to pines growing within about 300 feet.

The ban has been lifted in many states, and three rust-resistant varieties have been developed: 'Coronet', 'Crusader', and 'Consort'. 'Consort' is the best rust-resistant black currant to plant and makes an attractive hedge. The other Ribes species can also take part in transferring this disease, and they, too, are banned in some areas. Do not transport any currant or gooseberry from outside your region.

Fall or winter planting is a good idea, since the plants leaf

Ribes Sativum Wilder
'Red Lake' currants
Red Lake Currant

Gooseberries out early. In cold climates, plant right after the leaves drop, and the roots will be established before winter. Space the plants about 4 feet apart, or set them closer if more convenient, but expect them to grow less vigorously. Both do poorly in hot summer areas but may survive if planted against a north-facing wall. In most areas plant in the open, but be sure soil moisture is constant. Set the plants a little deeper than they grew in the nursery.

Currant Varieties

  • Jumbo' This American variety has large, pale green, sweet fruit. The plants are upright and vigorous. Origin: Unknown.
  • Perfection' This old variety has medium-sized red fruit in loose clusters. The plant has good foliage and is upright, vigorous, and productive. Good for Washington and Oregon. Widely available. Origin: New York.


  • Red Lake' Recommended everywhere that currants will grow, this variety yields medium to large, light red berries in long, easy-to-pick clusters. The plants are slightly spreading. They produced the highest yield in Canadian trials and also produce well in California. Widely available. Origin: Minnesota.
  • Stephens No. 9' This is a good Great Lakes variety, with fairly large, medium red berries in medium clusters. The plants are spreading and productive. Locally available. Origin: Ontario, Canada. 'White Grape' This is a white variety that is widely sold but is perhaps surpassed in quality by 'White Imperial', a relatively rare similar variety. Origin: Europe. 'Wilder' This very old variety from Indiana yields dark red berries that are firm but tender and very tart. Plants are large, hardy, and long-lived. Origin: Indiana.

Gooseberry Varieties

'Clark' This fruit is large and red when ripe. The plants are usually free of mildew.

This is a good Canadian variety. Origin: Ontario, Canada. 'Fredouia' The large fruit is dark red when ripe. Plants are productive and vigorous, with an open growth habit. Origin: New York.

  • Oregon Champion' The medium-sized fruit is green, and the plant bears prolifically. Good for the Pacific Coast and the East. Origin: Oregon. 'Pixwell' This is a very hardy variety for the Central and Plains States. The berries hang away from the plant, making them easy to pick, and the canes have few thorns. Fresh flavor is mediocre. Widely available. Origin: North Dakota.
  • Poorman' An American variety with red fruit, the plants are spiny and spreading. Good for the Pacific Northwest and the Central States. Locally available. Origin: Utah. 'Welcome' This American variety bears an abundance of wine-red fruit. The flavor is sweet-tart, Widely available. Origin: Minnesota.
Imperial White Currant

'White Imperial' currants

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  • jorma
    How to plant gooseberry?
    8 years ago

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