Sometimes, I will learn a new word or concept and then see it everywhere. “Jostaberry” hasn’t been like that. Attuned, I looked out for it all over Taste of London and grocery shopping this week, but to no avail. (To be fair, none of these places sold aniseed either, which I had thought a staple spice.)
Jostaberries made no appearance because their commercial cultivation is, worldwide, negligible. The only places I have located which sell related products are things like jostaberry wine or jam on a few farms in Canada and the U.S. Jostaberries must be more widely cultivated than they used to be, however, a growing interest in the thirty-three years since hybridization created them.
The jostaberry is a hybrid between the gooseberry and the blackcurrant, plump, deep ruby-purple oblong spheroids which grow more like gooseberries but without the thorns, and taste sweeter, more like black currants. (Photo) Their North American relatives the Worcesterberry – I am not making this up – tastes more like a gooseberry, apparently. (See? You can mail-order them in the U.S.)
Developed over the course of the mid-twentieth century in Germany, the jostaberry was commercially released by the Max Plank Institute in Cologne in 1977. The institute continued to work on refining the hybrid. I note, as evidence of this, a 2000 article in Vol. 538 of the Acta Horticulturae entitled, “Progress in breeding Ribes X Nidigrolaria Jostaberries adapted to mechanical harvesting”. The “Josta” in the name comes from a verbal fusion of the German words for blackcurrant and gooseberry, respectively, “Johannisbeere” and “Stachelbeere”.
Their existence arrived in my life fully-formed. In the current issue of Olive (July 2010), an article on “British Fruit” helpfully notes that Jostaberries are in season in Britain in June through September, as if all readers of the magazine might nod to themselves and say, “Ah yes. I wondered when my local shops might be stocking jostaberries”.
Olive‘s advice is only helpful if one can figure out how to track them down. I could grow them myself, but I’ve read that it can be a good four-or-so years before they bear reliable fruit. I would really love to try some sooner than that. In theory I can: they are, after all, in season right now.
© S. Worthen 2009