If you’re looking to grow something a little unusual then you might just have found it in the jostaberry.
Jostaberries are produced by crossing three different plants with one another; the blackcurrant, the black gooseberry and the European gooseberry.
This unusual heritage makes for a thoroughly unique plant, which brings together the best of all three.
Firstly, of course, we need to talk about the fruits. As you might expect, size-wise they sit half-way between a currant and a gooseberry.
However what makes them rather more exciting than many other soft fruits is that the flavour actually changes over time.
Picked early on as they are ripening the jostaberries taste rather like gooseberries. Left to ripen longer the flavour slowly changes to that of a black currant. This means a range of flavours from a single plant, with variety shown right throughout the long fruiting season.
Added to this, unlike many soft fruit bushes jostaberries are also thornless, which makes for much easier and more enjoyable harvesting. Try comparing this to the thorns found on many raspberry canes or tayberries and you’ll appreciate the difference!
How to Grow Jostaberries
In contrast to many other soft fruits, jostaberries can take time to grow.
Very few people experience a glut of fruit in their first year or two, so planting a jostaberry bush should be considered a long-term commitment.
That said, once they get going, jostaberry plants can be almost worryingly-vigorous, rapidly growing to six feet in height or more if not kept in check. They are also, therefore, a fruit bush that will require some ongoing maintenance.
In terms of planting jostaberries it is easiest to think of them rather like raspberry canes. Aim to plant your bushes in the dormant winter months, providing well-drained soil and a sunny position.
Many gardeners have found that growing a number of these bushes together seems to encourage fruiting, so it is generally advisable to buy more than one. These bushes can then be planted some 4-6 feet apart, with support from high winds provided by wooden stakes.
Once your jostaberry bushes really take off you’ll want to prune them annually to keep their unruly growth under control.
For best results, and maximum yield, focus your pruning on their older woody stems, cutting these down to just-above ground level.
The tips of fresher stems can be trimmed slightly, in order to keep the plant to a manageable height for harvesting.
A major concern for jostaberry growers is just how appealing these fruits appear to be for birds. An unprotected bush will quickly fall victim to local wildlife, who will strip it of fruit in next to no time.
It is therefore advisable to plan ahead when growing jostaberries, with an aim to netting them before the fruits start to ripen. For this reason, many gardeners opt to grow jostaberries within a fruit cage, where they can be certain of getting the juicy fruits all to themselves.
Images c/o Christoph Zurnieden, clg20171 & sissi de kroon.