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Lesser known berries

Jim Boxberger
Posted 3/18/22

So we have busy planting in our greenhouse since last week. We have now planted all the berry bushes and although most people are familiar with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, gooseberries …

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Garden Guru

Lesser known berries


So we have busy planting in our greenhouse since last week. We have now planted all the berry bushes and although most people are familiar with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, gooseberries and currants may seem a little more exotic. Native to Europe, gooseberries produce an edible small fruit and are grown both commercially and in home gardens. When we first starting getting gooseberries in twenty years ago, only our Russian and Ukranian customers knew what they were and bought them up quickly. Gooseberries can be eaten as-is, or used as an ingredient in desserts, such as pies, tarts and turnovers. Early picking produces generally sour fruit that is more appropriate for culinary use. They are also used to flavor beverages such as sodas and can be made into fruit wines and teas. Gooseberries are also preserved into jams or dried fruit. A close relative of the gooseberry is the currant family of berries. The fruit of black currant can be eaten raw, but it has a strong, tart flavor. It can be made into jams and jellies which set quickly because of the fruit’s high content of pectin and acid. The black currant is native to northern Europe and Asia. It was cultivated in Russia by the 11th century when it was present in monastery gardens. Cultivation in Europe is thought to have started around the last decades of the 17th century. Black currants were popular in the United States as well, but became less common in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when black currants, a carrier of white pine blister rust, was considered a threat to the logging industry. A federal ban on growing currants was shifted to the jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and the ban was lifted in New York State in 2003. Since then their popularity has grown once again. The red currant has been the staple of the backyard gardener for the past 100 years. Native to Western Europe, the tart flavor of red currant fruit is slightly greater than black currant, but with the same sweetness. Also packing a nutrient punch, a three and a half ounce serving of red currants is only 56 calories, but contains 49% of the daily value of vitamin C and 10% of the daily value of vitamin K. Similar in nutrient value to the red currant is their cousin the white currant. The white currant is actually an albino cultivar of the red currant but is marketed as a different fruit. White currant berries are slightly smaller and sweeter than red currants. When made into jams and jellies the result is normally pink. The berries of the white currant are a good source of vitamins B1 and C, and are rich in iron, copper and manganese. This year once again we were able to also get some pink champaign currants. Pink champagne is a cross between the white currant and red currant that yields a fruit that is white with a distinct pink blush. To go along with the different color, pink champagne’s taste will also surprise you with a luscious sweetness that makes it great for fresh eating. While not as tart as the red currants, pink champagne is still a surefire winner when it comes to preserves, jams and jellies just like the rest of the currant family. Even better, pink champagne is the perfect home edible garden plant with its dense, full form, it is very low maintenance, and its extremely high yields for such a compact plant. Both gooseberries and currants do extremely well given our poor soil conditions and most will start producing berries next year. Whether eaten fresh or turned into some other culinary delights, currants and gooseberries will put a smile on anyone’s face and make an excellent and interesting addition to the garden. Contributed Photo Pink champagne currants


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