The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Gooseberries in the forest garden

GoosberriesOn a less experimental note, I ordered two gooseberry bushes.  Gooseberries and currants (both in the genus Ribes) are some of the best plants for forest gardening since they are able to bear fruit in partial shade.  Ever since last winter when I read the second volume of the Edible Forest Gardens book, I've been trying to decide between digging up a native currant I found in the woods or buying a named cultivar.  After reading this Virginia Extension factsheet on currants and gooseberries, I chose the latter. 

Gooseberries are best for fresh eating, which is how I prefer my fruit, as opposed to currants that are best cooked.  There are two different kinds of gooseberries (very much like there are two kinds of cultivated grapes) --- the European gooseberries tend to keel over here unless you spray them with chemicals while the American ones do well here but may not be as tasty.  Newer varieties combine the best of both worlds.  I decided to try an improved American variety (Poorman), and a European variety with good disease-resistance (Invicta.)

Life cycle of the white pine blister rust.There is one downside to the Ribes genus --- some serve as an alternate host to the white pine blister rust that decimates commercial plantings of white pine.  As a result, most gooseberries and currants were eradicated in the U.S. in the 1900s before people realized that only the European black currant (Ribes nigrum) was really serving as an alternate host to the rust.  Now, many states outlaw planting all Ribes species while other states only outlaw the black currant.  Here in Virginia, you can't plant Ribes nigrum except for varieties that have been bred to resist the rust, but you can plant other gooseberries and currants with no problems.  I chose Indiana Berry to get my two bushes from since the nursery has a good selection of varieties that are supposed to do well in Virginia, and has the lowest prices I could find once you add on shipping.

This post is part of our Splurging on Perennials lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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