Gooseberry

(Ribes hirtellum x R.uva-crispa)

Hinnomaki Red gooseberry
Hinnomaki Red gooseberries

Cultivated gooseberries are derived mostly from two species The European gooseberry (R. uva-crispa) is native to the Caucasus Mountains and North Africa. The American gooseberry (R.hirtellum) is native to the northeastern and North Central U.S. and adjacent parts of Canada. American heritage contributes disease resistance while European ancestry contributes to fruit quality (size, sweetness and flavor). Virtually all so-called American cultivars have genes from the European species, whereas some European cultivars are purely R.-uva crispa. Most gooseberries grown today are hybrids. Nutritionally, gooseberries are high in vitamin A and phosphorous.

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. An attempt was made to select and observe a cross section of cultivars to evaluate adaptability, cultural issues and marketability as a commercial crop. Carandale observed nine cultivars, just a sampling of the thousands in existence. All were planted at Carandale Farm in 2003.

Black Velvet gooseberry
Black Velvet gooseberries (plants died out)

‘Black Velvet’ was selected because of its commercial potential as a high quality dessert fruit. It is a hybrid of gooseberry and Worcesterberry, described as having small, dark red, sweet, high quality fruit with a superb, almost blueberry-like flavor. The plant was said to be “hardy, disease resistant, easy to grow and tremendously productive in even the coldest parts of the nation.” Unfortunately, this cultivar may have come diseased from the nursery. One plant died during the 2003 growing season and the others declined early in 2004. All plants died by 2005. The canes were large and very thorny. Unfortunately, they had not fruited yet. Carandale may try this cultivar again to determine if the failure to adapt was plant-related or site-related. The plants were provided by Raintree Nursery.

Captivator gooseberry
Captivator fruit and foliage

‘Captivator’ is an American and European cross with great plant features. The canes are vigorous, nearly thorn-free and disease resistant. The pinkish-red fruit is tear-drop shaped with a sweet, mild taste. Unfortunately, the yields are low and fruit has a habit of dropping on the ground just as they reach full maturity. The fruit has dessert quality, but the yield and dropping tendency would make it hard to recommend as an economically sustainable commercial cultivar. Plants were from Northwoods Nursery (see One Green World) and established well.

Hinnomaki Red gooseberry
Hinnomaki Red fruit and plant

‘Hinnonmaki Red’ is an introduction from Finland with outstanding flavor and high yields. The small to medium bushes are upright and would probably be easy to machine harvest. The dark red, medium-sized fruit has excellent processing potential. It would not be considered a dessert fruit because of its tangy outer skin, but much of the tartness dissipates when fully ripe. It begins fruiting the year after planting and seems to have some disease resistance. Based on observations in the test plot, it has potential as an economically sustainable cultivar. Plants were from Northwoods Nursery (see One Green World) and adapted well.

Friend gooseberry
Dormant Friend plants

‘Friend’ is a thornless cultivar from Ukraine that bears firm, greenish yellow-striped fruit that is medium-sized. This multiple-use fruit is sweet enough to enjoy eaten fresh when fully ripe, yet tangy enough for good processing when harvested in the early ripe stage. Unfortunately, it has been the lowest yielding cultivar in the test plot. It cannot be recommended as an economically sustainable commercial variety, even though the fruit quality is great. Plants were from One Green World and established well.

 

Hinnomaki Yellow gooseberry
Hinnomaki Yellow fruit and foliage

‘Hinnonmaki Yellow’ is another hybrid from Finland with great flavor and good yields. This dessert-quality fruit has generally been large in size with a smooth yellow skin and an apricot-like flavor and sweetness. The plants are short and spreading, which would probably make them difficult to harvest mechanically. Based on observations in the test plot, it appears to have good potential as a commercial variety, but it will have challenges. It is thorny and will require good fertility to maximize plant size and vigor. It may not be adapted for machine harvest. The plants were from Raintree Nursery. One out five plants did not survive transplanting.

Invicta gooseberry
Invicta foliage and fruit

‘Invicta’ has been a high yielding, multiple purpose gooseberry. The large green fruit are good for processing and sweetened up for fresh eating when fully ripe. The bush is vigorous and spreading with large thorns. It could be trained for mechanical harvesting. Fruit quality and yield should make this a good choice for commercial fruit growers. Plants were from Northwoods Nursery (see One Green World) and adapted well.

 

 

Jahn's Prairie gooseberry
Dormant Jahn’s Prairie planting

‘Jahn’s Prairie’ is supposed to be a high yielding variety from Alberta, Canada, but yields in the test plot have been moderate (definitely less than ‘Invicta’ and ‘Hinnomaki Red’). The sweet-tart fruit is large, pink-red and suitable for cooking and processing. Plants are vigorous and upright with few thorns. They would be well-suited for mechanical harvesting. It has some potential as an economically sustainable commercial fruit crop but should be test-planted to determine yields on a site-specific basis. Plants were from Northwoods Nursery and have adapted to the site.

Poor Man gooseberry
Dormant Poor Man plants

‘Poor Man’ has good quality fruit that is large and highly flavored. It has dessert quality and can be eaten out-of-hand. The pear-shaped, wine-red berries can be used for pies and jams. Plants are large and vigorous with few thorns, but yields have been low in the test plot. This would be a great variety for commercial production if yields were higher. They should be test-planted to determine yield on a site-by-site basis. Plants were from Raintree Nursery. Plant adaptability was variable.

 

Tixia gooseberry
Dormant Tixia plants

‘Tixia’ has large, attractive, bright red fruit with dessert quality as well as processing potential, but it has not adapted well. Only one out of five plants remain in the test plot after nine years. Thorns are numerous but soft on one-year-old canes. Fruit quality would make it worth testing at other sites, but it cannot be recommended for commercial production based on observations at Carandale. Plants were purchased from Nourse Farms.

Discussion

Yields and plant vigor in the test plot can be expected to be lower than in well-managed commercial plantings. Plants in the plot are exposed to leaf spot and powdery mildew from nearby wild Ribes and white pine blister rust from windbreak trees. Very minimal disease control measures are taken to prevent defoliation. ‘Hinnonmaki Red’, ‘Hinnonmaki Yellow’ and ‘Invicta’ appear to have the most potential for commercial growers based on observations in the test plot. These could all be incorporated into an integrated cropping system and would probably benefit from symbiotic relationships with other fruit crops.

References

USDA National Nutrient Database information on Gooseberries
Raintree Nursery, search Gooseberry
Tony Tantillo the fresh grocer information on Gooseberries
Cornell University, Cornell Fruit, click on Berries

Comments are closed.