Plant for the nutritious sour, for the prickly branch necks, and for the old joke!
Hardy from Zones 3-8. 3-5 feet tall and wide.
Gooseberry’s a thorny relative of Currant. Some varieties are native to Europe and northern Africa, but it’s becoming naturalized in parts of North America, an ecological lesson for those of us descending from settlers and colonists. Most Gooseberries are hit hard by American Gooseberry mildew, so cultivated varieties are crossed with Ribes hirtellum, the native Goose of North America. The green fruit, sometimes spotted with yellow and white and sometimes entirely red or purple or black, are a little sour and excellent for pies and desserts, or flavoring water and cordial. The fruit is high in Vitamin C. We eat them fresh, but mostly turn them into jam.
The name might be a twist on Dutch or German words for “curled” or “crisped,” though it might just be because the curled stems look like a gooseneck. In Britain they’re called goosegogs. Gooseberry bush was also once slang term for pubic hair; as the old saying goes, “Babies are born under a gooseberry bush.”
We grow two cultivars of Goose:
Hinnonmaki Red (Ribes uva-crispa ‘Hinnonmaki Red’): a wonderful Finnish variety with tart skin but sweet pulp. Bred for high yields and mildew resistance. Grows fairly upright but has long skinny thorns, so watch your fingers!
Jahns Prairie Red (Ribes oxyacanthoides 'Jahns Prairie'): Dr. Otto Jahn selected this cultivar from native Gooseberries up in Alberta, Canada. The fruit is reddish-pink by midsummer and sweet for a good dessert berry. Good disease resistance, including powdery mildew. Edible Landscaping says they haven’t seen White Pine Blister Rust on these plants. Smaller thorns than Hinnonmaki Red.
We propagate our Goose from cuttings and tip-layering. Our plants grow in forest gardens, walkway edges, and riparian understory.