Book Review

Currants, Gooseberries, and Jostaberries: A Guide for Growers,
Marketers, and Researchers in North America

By Danny L. Barney, Ph.D.
and Kim E. Hummer, Ph.D.

Published by Food Products Press, an imprint of Haworth Press, 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY, 13904-1580.
Softcover, 6 x 8.25, 266 pp, illustrated with line drawings.
ISBN 1-56022-297-2.$34.95. 2005.
(Price/availability info may have changed since original publication of review.)

Reviewed by Lon Rombough (11/2005)

First and foremost, this book is written for commercial growers and for university- type researchers. The authors assume that the reader will possess some background with currants and gooseberries, or at the very least will be more than a backyard or hobby grower.

In short, it is meant as a reference book, not for light reading. Used for that purpose, it succeeds well and lives up to its title. There is a lot of good information in the book.

That does not mean beginners can’t use the information presented, but while there are many chunks of useful information, the text can also be rather heavy going in places. This is not really surprising because it was written as a university research publication.

The book has no illustrations other than a few line drawings. I suspect that the publisher felt the demand for such a
specialized book would be insufficient to warrant the production expense of color photos. Even so, pictures of varieties and diseases would have been a real plus.

One section I was personally glad to see was the chapter on breeding new varieties. Fruit breeding, to me at least, is
great fun. Currants and gooseberries are small enough plants that even backyard growers can play around with breeding a few new ones.

Possibly because the authors are university and government workers and could not do anything to show favoritism, there are also no sources for any of the varieties listed. It will be up to the reader to locate the nureseries who make
those varieties available.

Culture methods are mostly conventional— using herbicides, chemical fertilizer, etc. However, an experienced
gardener should have no trouble converting the methods to organics, as needed.

I found a couple of things in the book that seemed to be glitches. The gooseberry ‘Jahn’s Prairie’ is described as being
quite spiny. Yet I have a plant of the same variety that was taken directly from the original material and my own plant
has almost no thorns at all. And a chart of gooseberry varieties contained at least two names that I would swear were not gooseberries.

Finally, because this was a scholarly publication, there were no personal experiences included. Dr. Hummer is curator
of the Corvallis, Ore., branch of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository, which is home to the U.S. collection of
currant and gooseberry varieties. Unless she is sick of tasting so many varieties, it would be good reading to learn something about her personal favorites when she’s out nibbling in the “patch.”

Got gooseberries and currants? Make a space on the shelf for this book. You’ll check back with it over and over.

© Copyright 2005, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
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