Berry ri­isp ripeis beestbest

The goose­berry is one of those plants which only gets bet­ter and bet­ter with age.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In The Orchard -

The old peo­ple al­ways seem to grow top prize-win­ning goose­ber­ries. My 84-year-old neigh­bour Kate used to en­treat me to see her hy­drangeas, large seedling av­o­cado trees, and fi­nally her prize goose­ber­ries. They were small bushes, care­fully tended, hor­ri­bly thorny, but cov­ered in glow­ing red fruit the size of plums, noth­ing like the old, tiny, green, hard sour lumps of my child­hood mem­o­ries.

“You must come and dig up a bush this win­ter,” she would say, a twin­kle in her eye at the thought of goose­berry-re­lated de­lights that awaited me as a fu­ture con­nois­seur. Goose­berry jam, crum­bles, cus­tard, pud­dings, smooth­ies. De­li­cious.

Th­ese very typ­i­cal New Zealand fruit were in­her­ited from our Bri­tish set­tler past and they thrive on the West Coast, es­pe­cially if you have the canny, green­fin­gered tal­ents of a re­tiree and treat them with the at­ten­tion they crave.

You can bon­sai them in in­di­vid­ual pots – large if pos­si­ble to re­tain wa­ter and well mulched for sum­mer – so they are mo­bile and you gain bet­ter po­si­tions in the sun for ripen­ing fruit. If well-fed, those green bul­lets do in­deed swell and ripen to red, or­ange, or even pur­ple berries, burst­ing with tart (but not sour), ripe good­ness in sum­mer. Speak to them, tell them sto­ries, sing to them, etc. A gramo­phone will suf­fice.

Goose­ber­ries are pop­u­lar as a fea­ture in cot­tage gar­dens in their ideal tubs like coal buck­ets, old baths or cop­pers and other an­tique-look­ing gar­den art. Like a good bon­sai, the tub needs to sit in a saucer which re­tains wa­ter, but not so it soaks the pot base – sit it on a bed of gravel within the saucer.

The pic­ture to the right shows my ev­ervig­i­lant or­ganic friends’ col­lec­tion in full fruit over sum­mer. Their bushes are above waist height, planted into the ground, and mulched with sphag­num moss for weed sup­pres­sion and mois­ture re­ten­tion.

The main dis­ad­van­tage of th­ese plants is that they are very thorny, sim­i­lar in shape and point­ed­ness to the na­tive matagouri or ‘wild Ir­ish­man’ scrub so you will get many a punc­tured fin­ger trim­ming twigs and open­ing up the bushes with se­ca­teurs. This kind of prun­ing is a good idea though for help­ing the fruit to bask in those valu­able sugar-yield­ing so­lar rays.

Goose­ber­ries are in the Ribes fam­ily so they are ba­si­cally a gi­ant cur­rant. The photo above shows th­ese really sweet ‘black’ goose­ber­ries, an­other suc­cess­ful life­style or­chard­ing ex­per­i­ment at my friend Rob War­man’s place. Th­ese are a spe­cial va­ri­ety which he seems to be able to re­pro­duce with large cut­tings. Th­ese are fruit­ing well and the ripe, dark fruit is really not sour at all – you be­gin to see why the ki­wifruit was orig­i­nally known as the Chi­nese goose­berry.

Rob’s ones are mulched with large wood­chips, mainly to keep the weeds down and beat grass com­pe­ti­tion. They are also lib­er­ally fed with cow ma­nure, com­post and other good­ies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.