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
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.
'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.
'White Imperial' currants
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