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Jostaberries are purple berries that grow on thornless bushes with deeply-veined green leaves that feature serrated edges and irregular lobes. When young, the berries are a light green, and closely resemble a small gooseberry. They hang firmly on their stems, in clusters of three to five. As they mature, they deepen in color, going from green to red before they turn a glossy violet-black, indicating that they are ripe. Each berry can grow to 10 millimeters in diameter. The tangy-sweet berries taste of gooseberries with a slight flavor of black currant and grape.
Jostaberries are available in mid-summer.
Jostaberries are a cross between the black currant, the Northern American coastal black gooseberry and the European gooseberry. They are botanically classified as Ribes nidigrolaria. The name Jostaberry, pronounced “yusta-berry”, comes from the German word for gooseberry (Johanisbeere), and black currant (Stachelbeere). Jostaberries are sometimes referred to as Goose Currants, and each berry is larger, and generally sweeter, than a gooseberry or a black currant. Jostaberries are not widely cultivated, in part because it can take four to five years for a plant to produce a decent crop of berries (around 5 kilograms per bush).
Jostaberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. In studies, the extracts and juice of the Jostaberry have been found to have anti-fungal properties, as well as inhibitive effects on some bacteria, such as E. coli.
Jostaberries may be eaten fresh. They also are used to make jams, relishes and chutneys. They can be found in desserts such as pies and crumbles and can be processed to make cordials and fruit wines. Jostaberries can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator. They may be frozen after being washed, and the stems removed. They can last for several months in the freezer.
The development of the Jostaberry came from experiments following a gooseberry craze that swept England and America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At its height, gooseberry appreciation clubs were not uncommon in both countries. Gooseberries were first cultivated in English and Dutch gardens. The berries were brought to America by English colonists, where they became almost as popular as they were in England. Starting in the late 1800s through the 1900s, gardeners and breeders in Europe began experimenting by crossing gooseberries with other berries, including the black currant. Although experiments were interrupted during the two World Wars, the Germans persisted with the various strains, working to make them viable as a plant crop. The Jostaberry, first made available to the public in 1977, is the result of such experiments. Jostaberries are not grown commercially but are favored by home gardeners particularly in England and the United States. They are appreciated for their rich, berry taste. A 2009 article in British newspaper The Guardian described the Jostaberry as “a sort of jumbo black currant that makes a cracking crumble”, referring to the fruit crumble dessert.
Jostaberries were bred in Germany. The first official cultivar of Jostaberry was developed in Cologne by plant breeder Dr Rudolph Bauer. It was introduced to the public in 1977 and today, Jostaberries can be found in Europe, Australia and in North America. The Jostaberry plant prefers temperate climates and can tolerate temperatures that dip to 4 degrees Celcius. The Jostaberry plant is resistant to various diseases and pests that plague other currant and berry bushes. It prefers moist, well-drained soils. In America, different varieties of Jostaberries have been developed, such as the Orus 8 - first bred in Oregon and notable for its very sweet berries and red highlights in the fruit.
Recipes that include Jostaberries. One is easiest, three is harder.