Unlike most other fruiting plants, ribes are late succession plants that tolerate and fruit well in partial shade. They will also grow and produce some fruit in full shade.
Ribes odoratum is native to the American Midwest and Great Plains, north into Canada. Some catalog sources say it is hardy to Zone 2 and heat and drought tolerant. Crandall is the cultivar being observed in the Carandale test plot.
A relative newcomer as a cultivated crop, European black currant is native to northern Europe and north and central Asia. The first historical reference to this fruit was in the 17th century, when it became known more as a medicinal fruit than one useful for culinary purposes. It was discovered to have a soothing effect on sore throats, which is now attributed to its high vitamin C content.
Jostaberry is a complex ribes hybrid of the European currant (R. nigrum) and gooseberry (Ribes sup). The attempt to capture the best qualities of both species in one plant dates back to 1883, but it wasn’t until 1977 that the first cultivar was made available to the public.
Red currants range in color from dark red to translucent white. For all practical purposes, they are all the same. Nearly all cultivars grown domestically are the hybrid offspring of three species, each of which provide specific traits.
Most Americans familiar with gooseberries remember them to be a hard, green little berry with sour pulp and tough skins. Newer cultivars are grape-sized with tender skins, have a sweet and aromatic pulp and come in a rainbow of colors when fully ripe.