I just bought and planted a Black Velvet Gooseberry. My hope is to plant a green/white gooseberry also.
Since there seem to be two ways to go - for fresh eating or more tart for cooking, does anyone have a favorite variety? My preference is for fresh eating, at least for now.
Another option is a gooseberry/currant cross. One Green World has a variety called Orus-8, which sounds very tasty.
Since they stay small and can tolerate some shade, it shouldn't be too hard to fit a few in between other fruit. Another plus is that they ripen earlier in the season, when there's not a lot of fruit available.
The only gooseberry that I've had was a variety called (--I firmly believe--) 'Pixwell'. At maturity the fruits were green, and it could take a lot of shade. The main problem was that each year the non-native currant worm (Nematus ribesii) would defoliate the plant so thoroughly that it was a wonder that it survived and fruited as many years as it did! It's a specialist type of sawfly (--the species of which feed on various types of plants), but this particular one is quite proficient at skeletonizing the leaves of Ribes species which, of course, include both gooseberries and currants.
My recommendation is that, if you wish to cultivate either one for fruit production, you should put into place some kind of adequate framing and screening which will keep any and all sawflies from landing on the plants and laying eggs. Thanks to the insects' acute sense of finding the appropriate plants for them to eat, those Nematus ribesii will find your gooseberries and skeletonize their leaves. You've gotta give credit to the insects, though. They have developed specializations over vast spans of time.
As usual, I tend to forget something else that I wanted to add. 'Tis my nature. In this case, I wanted to mention that my wife and I often find BugGuide.net to be a useful resource. It tends to be curated by entomologists who are knowledgeable about a broad diversity of insects. Granted, there are not experts in many of the more obscure groups. There are most likely at least a couple of million insects that have still not been scientifically described. (These tend to be the "dinky" insects that people just don't pay attention to because they're "insignificant"). That being said, I was a bit surprised when I went to the site and found very little about Nematus ribis. I guess that it's one of those things that's taken for granted,... or, perhaps, it's because so few people cultivate currants and gooseberries in the U.S. They're popular in Europe, but they seem to be useful fruits that never got a "fair shake" here in our own country. ...They're definitely worthy.
Yes, many people have given up on gooseberries, jostaberries, and many currants. Red currants seem to be able to survive but take a partial hit. Black currants, perhaps due to their strong aroma, seem to be able to survive fine. I also have a black currant from the Great Plains that has large hollow berries that taste really good and it seems to be able to deal with the worm ok.
I have Hinnomaki Red and Hinnomaki Yellow. Both are good for fresh eating, but the yellows seem sweeter to me than the reds. They are also good frozen whole. As far as the imported currant worm, I pick them off and squish them or drop them in soapy water although they are extremely hard to see, being the exact same color as the leaves. I grow gooseberries as cordons rather than bushes, which makes looking for and hand picking the worms (and fruit) easier. I have also sprayed the worms with a soap spray.
I am another gardener that has had to take out red currants and gooseberries (twice) due to insect pest pressure.
10-year gap in the plantings, made no difference. Within weeks the bugs were back, so much so that SWD fruitfly control
on caneberries is relatively easy.
I use bugguide.net extensively. Its main purpose is for physical identification. There is only cursory information about
food, habits, etc. To use the Guide effectively requires a good knowledge about insects in order to home in on a particular
family or genus of insects otherwise the extensive taxonomy lists and 1,000s of images either overwhelm or mislead.
John S. -- "...Red currants seem to be able to survive but take a partial hit. Black currants, perhaps due to their strong aroma, seem to be able to survive fine...."
John: It's always difficult to get all one's information into single posts. To clarify, perhaps a bit, some years back I grew currants ('Crandall'). Interestingly, they were never attacked by the Currant Worm. The pest in that case was aphids which would thoroughly distort and mangle the leaves from beneath, leading to reddish blister-like "boils" on the upper surface. As for my Black Currants (Ribes nigrum), the Currant Worms have never attacked them and they tend to fruit reasonably well each year. The fruits that I don't get, my local song sparrows get (--I have several "volunteer" plants thanks to them. Strangely enough, for some reason it just seems to be the Gooseberries themselves that are terrorized by the Currants Worms and simply can't run and hide! It seems to be something very specific to the gooseberries. What's a poor gooseberry to do?
JeanW -- "I have Hinnomaki Red and Hinnomaki Yellow. Both are good for fresh eating, but the yellows seem sweeter to me than the reds.... As far as the imported currant worm, ...they are extremely hard to see, being the exact same color as the leaves.
Jean: You shouldn't post such nice pictures while those emerging from winter are craving fresh, homegrown fruits. ...Your comment of the yellows being sweeter than the reds reminds me of our local Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). On our local property we have reddish ones, salmon-colored ones, and yellow ones. The lighter colored ones always seem sweeter to me. Back in the high mountains of southern California, there was a native version of Blackcap Raspberries: between the normal "blackcaps" and the few yellow-fruited plants, the yellow ones were always sweeter. Hmmmmm.
Larry_G -- "...To use the Guide effectively requires a good knowledge about insects in order to home in on a particular family or genus of insects, otherwise the extensive taxonomy lists and 1,000s of images either overwhelm or mislead."
Larry: I can appreciate that; such a complex subject can be confounding and bewildering at the outset. As a "nature boy" I absorbed (or imbibed) a lot of helpful things along the way. However, in college my wife took one of several entomological courses and a textbook that she acquired I still find useful. It's titled "An Introduction to the Study of Insects", by D.J. Borror, D.M. DeLong, and C.A. Triplehorn. She has the 5th edition (1981). I find it profoundly useful as an overall reference. I should caution that there was a "revision" published in the last few years which was widely panned by reviewers and critics. Apparently it was revised by folks who weren't truly qualified to undertake such a momentous task. Just a "head's up". ...Given that the earlier editions are now considered "out-of-date", I would think that a good old copy might be procured from a good used-book seller like Powell's Books. (No. They didn't pay me to say that.)
Reinettes -- "Jean: You shouldn't post such nice pictures while those emerging from winter are craving fresh, homegrown fruits."
Ha, ha, Reinettes! The fresh fruit picture makes me long too for harvest season to get here and this long winter to end. How about this for a balance? This is one of my gooseberry branches with imported currant worms chomping away a few years ago. I certainly don’t look forward to that again.
Just as you experienced, my Crandall and Ben Lomond black currants have never been bothered by the currant worms but have had the blisters from aphids. The Crandall clove currants taste all right fresh, but I can’t stand the Ben Lomonds. They make good cooked jelly or jam, but fresh they have a very unpleasant odor and taste.
Geez, Jean! -- With that image in my head, I think that I'm going to be having nightmares! I love old, scary movies (--especially Vincent Price!--), but I was always consciously aware that they were just fiction. A photo like that could have me in therapy for years. [...Just kidding,... I'm not the kind of person who can afford "therapy" ].
There is a parallel 'worm discussion' from early May 2020 on this forum; from the search box, I use the advanced search to limit to topics only.... "currant worm" as the search term.... yields the topic post... "speaking of worms: Imported Currant Worm" from the list.
I found post #10 especially confirming/knowledgable as to the mechanical control, where and what to look for, eggs as well, and the timing to be effective. Especially for just a few bushes, although the poster maintains 80 shrubs and seems to find the duration of return treatment manageable. I was heartened to discover and it has born out that the worm onslaught is of short duration. A couple of visitations involving concerted squishing, being careful to not dislodge nor let the tiny ones slide down webs into the soil to regenerate. And then carefully lifting/turning the branches looking for the eggs after dispatching the crawlers. I'm yet under the impression that the following years cycle or numbers are not are not as big a reoccurrence. Before that, left untreated for a few years the devastation at my place had become remarkably more and more pronounced, it had been so disheartening.
The OP was calling for recommendations/descriptions for favored varieties and got a few ideas from Jean W and a couple of others, I wonder if there are any others that folks particularly liked.
Thanks to everyone for posting about their gooseberry experiences. It did seem too good to be true, darned currant worms! This is why it's invaluable to ask questions on the HOS forum first, before buying new plants.
Black Velvet made it through the first year without any damage; whether this was due to it being newly-planted or because of the yellow-jacket nests on either side of the plant, who knows. Whatever the reason, it's best to see how the one plant fares before buying a white gooseberry.