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Gooseberries and Currants

Jim Boxberger
Posted 3/22/24

  This is a follow-up to a column I wrote last month referring to Poppi Soda not containing corn syrup. Well I have had the chance to get some Poppi at Shoprite in Monticello. It wasn’t …

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Garden Guru

Gooseberries and Currants


 This is a follow-up to a column I wrote last month referring to Poppi Soda not containing corn syrup. Well I have had the chance to get some Poppi at Shoprite in Monticello. It wasn’t easy to find as it was not in the soda department, but rather with the sparkling waters. I’v tried two flavors so far, the cola and ginger-lime. Now with ingredients that include apple cider vinegar, you might think as I did, this must taste terrible. But I was pleasantly surprised that the product is very drinkable. There is a slight after-taste in the cola similar to diet cola, this is from the stevia extract. Stevia is an herb that we sell in the greenhouse when the weather is warmer that is used as a natural sugar replacer. You can just chew the leaves of the stevia plant and taste the sweetness. Even with organic cane sugar and stevia, a twelve ounce can of Poppi cola only contains 25 calories. The ginger-lime only had 20 calories and no after-taste. In fact, the first thing I thought of when trying the ginger-lime was this will make a great mixer for cocktails. Now I can’t see kids running out to grab some just yet, but I bet if you just poured one over ice on a hot day and handed it to them, it would be gone in no time at all. 

  So now it is officially spring and yet it feels like winter again, but things are looking up. Our bare root perennials and berry bushes are all planted and ready to go and this week the bare root fruit trees have come in. Now they will take a week or so before they get all planted as they take much more time. Like our other bare root plants, we first need to soak the roots in a Foxfarm Microbrew solution for at least fifteen minute before planting them. As I have written about previously, the mycorrhizal fungi adheres to the roots of the plant and feeds the roots a constant supply of minerals, elements and fertilizers. So by putting this on, we get plants that grow extremely well in the pots, even early in the spring. The Microbrew product contains multiple strains of mycorrhizal fungi, so that it will work on any type of plant, indoor, outdoor, evergreen, vegetable, whatever. And best of all, you only use it once a year. Once the mycorrhizal fungi form a colony in the soil, they are there all season long, working to give you the best plant possible. Each spring just add mycorrhiza to your soil to help all your plants grow better. 

  With all the plants we have potted up recently, I wanted to highlight a couple berry plants that have seen a major resurgence in the past five to ten years. These would be gooseberries and currants. Gooseberries are often similar in size and flavor to grapes, but because they are bushes, they are much easier to grow than grapes. The skin of gooseberry fruit is translucent, and, depending on the variety, their color can be white, yellow, green, or pink. Gooseberries keep well if frozen, and they are great for jams and jellies, fresh juice or wine making. A cousin to the gooseberry is the currant. Red and white currants have been widely available for decades, but the black currant only became available again about ten years ago. Before that time it was banded because it was a carrier plant for white pine blister rust. The ban was to protect pine forests before the days of modern fungicides. Since fungicides are readily available now to treat the rust, the ban on black currants has been removed. 

Over the past ten years the popularity of the black currant has far surpassed its red and white siblings, mostly for the reported health benefits of the dark fruit. Because of its dark color, black currants are high in antioxidants and pound for pound, black currants have three and a half time more vitamin C than oranges. So these tiny fruits pack a lot of power. Last year, I made all natural black currant jam with just the black currants and cane sugar and I was surprised at how good it came out. Without any added pectin the jam set up nicely with just the added sugar. Now black currants do have an acquired taste, so you might want to try some if you can find any in the grocery store, most likely dried, before you decide to plant a few in the backyard this spring. 


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