Totally Useless Facts from Mr. Penny #6 Gooseberries

Mr. Penny is a veritable fountain of completely useless information. So we thought we would give him an outlet to share it here, so he doesn’t drive us nuts with all of it.

Gooseberries: the forbidden fruit. Have you ever heard of Gooseberries? Truth be told I don’t think I would have, were it not for the fact that my grandparents grew them on their property. It is sometimes said that Gooseberries are a “flavor-packed berry that simultaneously tastes tart and sweet.” Personally, I thought they were really heavy on the tart side, so I didn’t care for them. But truth be told I also never really learned to recognize when they were ripe for eating. That’s probably just as well. My grandfather liked to grow them to make wine from the berries, and if I had learned when they were best for eating, he probably would have never had enough berries to make wine.

But there may be a reason you’ve never heard of them. They were illegal to plant for decades! Gooseberries, and their relative the Currant (another berry you may not have heard of) are both intermediary hosts of white pine blister rust. It’s a disease that affects, you guessed it, white pine. Because the disease was having a real impact on the timber industry, and let’s face it, there really is no Gooseberry industry, the federal government banned the growing of all plants in the Gooseberry/Currant family. In fact, this federal ban was in effect until 1966, and in some states it’s still banned.  I don’t think Indiana is one of those states, so I don’t think my grandparents were outlaws...but I’m not sure.

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