Krusbär Catharina Ohlenburg
Gooseberry cultivation in Sweden could be tracked back in written records to the late 16th century. However, it is likely rather the earlier on the lack concerns the written sources rather than the gooseberries. There are indications that the origin of gooseberry cultivation was the Scandinavian peninsula and that the culture spread with the Vikings to France and England a thousand years ago. At least during the 18th and 19th centuries the gooseberry bush was the inevitable king of the Swedish home garden. Since gooseberry cultivar development carried out by trained professionals has begun in Sweden at around 1880 a few varieties reached the market.
At the same time Hamburg-based Swedish citizen John Carlsson found a particularly fine cultivar in a garden show somewhere in Germany. Carlsson bought the cultivars and managed to meet up with the farmer who lived in Ohlenburg. He acquired the ownership of the cultivar from the farmer. The only payment required by the farmer was that the cultivar should be named after his wife Catharina. Professor Erik Lindgren at the Experimentalfältet experimental field owned by the Academy of agrarian sciences in the northern outskirts of Stockholm brought the cultivar to Sweden and made it commercially available during the 1890’s.
The fruit is big and the shape slightly oval. Fruits often weigh 10–15 g each. The peel is very thin, slightly hairy, and shiny. The colour is green with lighter nerves and fine light dots. The flesh is jelly-like to its consistency.
In the first years of the 20th century the pest called American gooseberry mildew came to Europe and reached Sweden. It was a disaster for the many plantations. In the short perspective gooseberry growing was rapidly reduced. In the longer run teachings were taught on how to handle the new situation. The mildew could be suppressed by putting the plants in a sunny place and ensuring a good air circulation around them. Also pesticides were developed. The pest also attacked ‘Catharina Ohlenburg’. Another countermeasure against the mildew was the development of resistant cultivars e.g. by crossbreeding of European cultivars with American one’s. After the first successful launch of such cultivars, e.g. ‘Scania’ in the early 1930’s, the older non-resistant cultivars began to be threatened. It is now long since ‘Catharina Ohlenburg’ was available in the plant shop, but plants are still out there in older gardens and in the Swedish genebank.
‘Catharina Ohlenburg’ has a particularly fine and noble flavor making it one of the utmost gooseberries to serve as a table fruit. Like all gooseberries it could also be used for making jam, juice, chutney, curd and wine. Especially wine-production starting from gooseberries was vivid in Sweden during the second half of the 20th century and up until 1917 when the production was regulated by the state. The commercialization of ‘Catharina Ohlenburg’ could be seen as one important step in providing even better raw materials for the expanding gooseberry wine industry at the turn of the 20th century, e.g. in the form of Knutstorp sparkling or the wines by Önos in Tollarp.