“ Advice about and experience of growing blackcurrants. Ribes nigrum is a species of currant native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia. The fruit have a high natural vitamin C content. Like the redcurrant (and unlike the Zante currant, a type of grape which is often dried), it is classified in the genus Ribes. In addition to the high levels of vitamin C, studies have also shown concentrated blackcurrant to be an effective Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (Bormann, et al. 1991.) Fifty grams of 5.5X concentrate was found to inhibit 92% of the Monoamine oxidase enzymes. Blackcurrant seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a very rare essential fatty acid. „
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Black currants are little black berries not to be mistaken for black berries which are larger and more bobbly (the best way I could describe them!) black currants are smooth and small around 8 to 10mm in diameter.
Grow your own
The cheapest and easiest way to get black currants is to grow your own, you will need a black currant bush which you can buy in most stores for around £3 to £5 I bought mine from Aldi a few years ago. They take a year to establish but once they're off they're off. You can plant them among your flower borders as that helps them to polinate or in a fruit and veg section of your garden. They need a good deal of sun and grow quite tall so bear that in mind. I have found mine quite hardy, once you have harvested the berries in around July/Aug time so in late Aug/Sept you can trim back the bush to a size that suits your garden. To harvest the berries just pick them off. What I love about these berries in particular is that when you are picking you can smell the black currant smell as it's strong, the leaves smell of it too!
On their own the currants can be quite wincy to taste but add them to many other fruits and they taste great.
How to use
Fresh black currants are great in crumbles, flans, summer fruit puddings and much more. You could also make black currant jelly. The other thing I have used my black currants for is smoothies, I have a smoothie juicer (see Jack La lane review) just pop them in the top with all the other fruits such as red currants, apples, kiwi and grapes and wow you have your own tasty drink. Fresh black currants can also be frozen, just wash and bag them up as soon as you can after picking. Once in your freezer as soon as they are frozen tap the bag so that they don't stick together and then you can pour out as many as you need as the year goes on.
A great berry with lots of various uses.
The first thing I can think of to mention, concerning blackcurrants in the garden, is that the leaves of the bushes have a strong and slightly distressing odour reminiscent of cats' pee. (In fact, during a previous career wherein I was interested in amongst other thing, mammalian scent marks, I remember seeing a paper entitled something like: 'the catty odour of blackcurrants, versus the blackcurrant-like odour of cats'). The catty odour of blackcurrant bushes is evident whenever anyone brushes past the leaves - they leave a slight residue that seems to have a subtly oily character, wherein the odour seems to reside, and even makes itself known from a short distance, on warm days when the bushes are in full sun.
Garden-grown blackcurrant bushes have an upright, shrubby appearance, and grow as much as five feet tall. The bright, light green leaves have slightly wrinkled upper surfaces and are five-pointed - blackcurrant bushes look a lot like their relatives, the redcurrants in the garden, but the glossy bark on the woody stems of blackcurrants is dark brown, as opposed to the chestnut, almost foxy red bark of the redcurrant. In addition, redcurrant bushes tens to not grow as bushily as blackcurrants, nor is the foliage quite as dense. Neither of these related fruit bushes produce thorns, which is an advantage. The small, round currants come after the inconspicuous, yellow-green flowers, and grow on thin-stemmed drooping sprays - like tiny, sparsely covered bunches of grapes - ripening to a dark, glossy purple-black after mid-summer. The berries contain several small seeds, are sour when raw, and although quite robust individually (so they don't turn to pulp in the hand) are still time-consuming to harvest, given their small size combined with the abundant numbers produced on each bush. While not particularly tasty in their natural state, they have a strong, fragrant flavour, and improve markedly when cooked or made into jam.
Small two foot high black currant bushes, with about four woody stems generally cost £3 to £4, and are sold from various outlets such as garden centres and DIY shops early in the spring for planting in the garden. A small plant such as this will probably begin producing a few berries in its second year, and will soon grow much larger, left to its own devices. They are long-lived plants - the ones in my mother's garden are more than 40 years old and still flourishing - and easy to propagate from woody cuttings. They are generally problem-free although garden birds often take a share of the fruit, though they can be afflicted by the picturesquely-named 'big bud' disease, which prevents foliage from growing properly and can thus decrease the black currant crop.
This website was so easy to find and has such good information on the subject of blackcurrents.
A good friend has cancer. She's only 35yrs old and is too poorly to have valuable chemotherapy. Her blood count is too low. I'm hoping that by making a supply of fresh blackcurrent cordial for her, it will help boost her blood so she can have the treatment that could save her life! Blackcurrent juice is one of the few things she can bear to drink just now, so making FRESH supplies is just BOUND to be so good for her.
I always look forward to the blackcurrants ripening at the bottom of my garden every year, as they are another of my favorite fruit and there's nothing quite like a blackcurrant and apple pie with ice-cream. Or fresh juice made in the juicer. Blackcurrants are very easy to grow, you can buy a plant from the garden center for around 3.99. I always like to wait untill after autumn though as the plants get very cheap in the discount racks. I have one big blackcurrant bush at the bottom of my garden which produces loads of blacurrants each year. A blackcurrant bush should produce a good crop for around twelve years. They are a great way of getting vitamin C and they are very tastey. The plants like a shadey place but will grow in most places and like moisture during the growing and fruiting so it's good to feed them plenty of water and compost or manure around the base of the plant. Blackcurrants can be planted from October to the end of March and it is best to cut the bush down to about 5 inches above the ground in the first february after they have been planted. I cut mine down last year too, as it was getting huge and I was a bit scared that I'd killed it, but this year there are loads of new shoots and leaves, so I'm hoping for a bumper crop. Although picking the fruit is a bit time consuming it is very rewarding once you have made them into a pie or juice, you can sit there and enjoy the luxury of the blackcurrants. the best time to pick the fruit is when the very top blackcurrants on a strand have gone soft, sometimes they look ripe but are not and picking them too early will only give you sour blackcurrants. One of the best fruiting varieties of blackcurrant is called Baldwin but the Mendip Cross is also good as it produces bigger fruit which makes it easier to pick. If you have a garden and like blackcurrants then have a go at growing one, you will love the benefits of being able to make your own
pies and juice, children enjoy picking fruit too as my grandchildren love visiting when things are ripe in the garden, sometimes it's a hard job getting enough fruit past their mouths to make a pie or juice.
Blackcurrants, (Latin name Ribes nigrum) have the highest level of vitamin C of all fruits. Many fruits and vegetables lose a lot of their vitamin content when cooked, but blackcurrants retain a high percentage of their vitamin C when cooked, so are therefore well worth growing for that reason alone. Leaves can be used in pickles, soups or for herbal tea. The fruit and leaves have numerous medicinal uses, e.g. the juice improves the elasticity of the veins and is recommended during pregnancy and convalescence. GROWING BLACKCURANTS Preparation and planting Blackcurrants are gross feeders so need a deep, fertile and well-drained soil. It is well worthwhile taking time to prepare the soil properly prior to planting. Dig in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure, and mulch the site to retain water, although do not allow the ground to become waterlogged. The site should be sheltered and sunny. They will tolerate slight shading but the amount of fruit produced will be less. Plant out in October/November when the soil is still warmish. They should go one inch lower in the ground than they were in the nursery, to encourage new shoots beneath soil level. Plant 4-6 ft apart depending on vigour and whether bushes are upright or spreading. At planting, all shoots should be cut back to a bud an inch or two. Blackcurrants are always grown as free-standing bushes so no support or training is needed. Blackcurrants grow as stooled bushes, which means that they send up new shoots from below ground level. Blackcurrants have a high Nitrogen requirement. To satisfy this need, feed with 2 handfuls of Fish, Blood and Bone or Growmore in the spring and mulch with well-rotted manure or compost. If growth seems poor give a further feed in early summer. Pruning Blackcurrants produce fruit on wood made the previous year, so in the first year, little or no pruning will be needed, except to cut out any damaged branches. I
n the second and subsequent years cut the fruited wood back to ground level to encourage further strong growth. This is done in late summer after fruiting. As the bushes get older you may find that fewer shoots are produced from below ground level. If this happens, prune out old wood as low as possible just above a young shoot. It is best to work on a three-year cycle, Harvesting Currants are more tedious to harvest than other soft fruits on account of their small size and tendency to squash, making the pickers' fingers sticky. This problem can be overcome by picking the whole striggs, making little effort to separate the individual currants. Once at home, the whole striggs (strings of ripe blackcurrants) can be frozen as they are on flat trays. Once frozen, the berries separate easily from the stalks, and can be stored in plastic bags for future use. Blackcurrants do not keep well once picked, so it is better to either freeze or bottle them immediately after picking. Propagation Growing new plants from cuttings is easy. Take six to ten inch cuttings from one-year-old shoots in the autumn after leaf fall. Cut off the unripened shoot tips and stick in the soil. Leave just two buds above soil level. If this is done in the autumn, by the next spring the sticks will have rooted. Remove any berries that may form in the first year. The following spring, dig up the new plants and replant in their permanent position. It will take about 3 years for the plants to reach full maturity, by which time, you can take new cuttings from those plants. I began my growing with just two mature plants. The first year I took about twenty cuttings, thinking that maybe a quarter of them would root. Boy was I wrong! Every single one of them “took”. The following spring I was begging the other allotment owners to take some from me! I now have approximately fifteen mature plants, and another six immature plants, all from the origi
nal two. As most bushes have a reasonable life span of about 10 years, I will be renewing some of the older plants in the next couple of years. Varieties Ben Lomond is probably the most popular of varieties, and is the one usually sold in Garden Centres. It is one of the most heavy yielding varieties, and is resistant to many of the diseases that the bushes can be prone to. Laxton’s Giant is an early ripening, frost resistant variety, but it can be susceptible to high winds, so should be grown in a sheltered position. Its fruit is sweet and juicy, heavy yielding, and easy to pick. Silvergieters Zwarte is a mid summer fruiting variety. The currants are large, and produced in long, easy to pick clusters. Seabrooks Black will crop even in exposed positions. The fruit is slightly more acid than many of the others, which makes it an excellent variety for jam. The clusters of fruit tend to be smaller, which makes it a bit more tiresome to pick. Ben Serek is a later fruiting variety, and is more of a dwarf bush than many others. The flavour of the fruit is not as acceptable to some, being on the sharp side. Ben Tirren is probably the latest ripening variety, with the fruit not being ready to pick until late August. It has a very good flavour, and crops heavily. Jostaberry is a hybrid cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant. It looks and eats like a gooseberry, but grows like a blackcurrant, with berries about twice the size of an ordinary blackcurrant. I have four of five of these, and they make excellent setting additions in making jam, but beware of the thorns when harvesting! They are about an inch long and lethal! There are obviously other varieties of blackcurrant, but these are probably some of the most well known. OTHER FACTS ABOUT BLACKCURRANTS Recent research by recognized scientists has shown that blackcurrants have very high antioxidant activity. An
tioxidants have received a lot of press for their possible role in preventing the degenerative diseases of aging (e.g. cancer and heart disease). This is because antioxidants help protect against the harmful effects of free radicals and other highly reactive chemicals, which may cause cell damage. Traditionally, this activity has been attributed to the high Vitamin C content but this recent research has now shown that the high Anthocyanin content of Blackcurrants may be the principle source. Research analysis has shown Blackcurrants to have the following complement of antioxidants:- Antioxidant Content per 100 g fresh Vitamin C 160 mg Vitamin E 1.4 mg Carotenoids (beta-carotene equivalents) 160 mg Phenolics 157 mg GAE - Anthocyanins 571 mg The Individual Anthocyanins with Blackcurrants cyanidan-3-rutinoside 35% delphinidin-3-rutinoside 30% cyandin-3-glucoside 15% delphinidin-3-glucoside 15% cyanidan and delphinidin glycosides 5% A number of different methods of taking in these antioxidants have been developed, and they are available in many forms Blackcurrant Anthocyanin extract produced using alcohol extraction Dehydrated pure blackcurrant powder Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with pure blackcurrant powder Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with pure blackcurrant powder fortified with Blackcurrant extract Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with a base of pure blackcurrant powder and fortified with blackcurrant extract Personally, I juice some of my berries, and use the juice to make lollies, or trickle over ice cream, or simply add water and drink! The smell of freshly pressed blackcurrants brings back memories of my youth, when I would wander down East Street Market in Walworth, and stop at the hot drink stall for either a hot blackcurrant, or pineapple drink. It was a cordial as I remembe
r, not a squash, or Ribena, but a REAL blackcurrant drink. I’ve tried everywhere, but alas, it seems unavailable in this day and age. RECIPES Well first and foremost has to be the blackcurrant jam! One of the easiest to make because of the excellent setting properties of the fruit. I won’t go into the recipe here, as I’ve already done one on making jam! Home made blackcurrant cordial 1) Put fruit in bowl and crush with wooden spoon 2) Add about half pint water to each pound of fruit. 3) Cook slowly, crushing occasionally with spoon. 4) Strain through sieve. 5) Add one pound sugar to each pint juice. 6) Cool, and store in sterilized bottles, in the fridge. 7) Add hot or cold water when you want to drink it. 8) It will store safely for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge. Fruit cheese. You can use the fruit pulp left over from the previous recipe to make this one. 1) Press cooked pulp through sieve. 2) Weigh puree, and add one pound sugar to each pound puree. 3) Add a little cinnamon, then stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. 4) Cook for about 45 minutes until thick. 5) Pack in small, oiled, wide necked jars, or individual jelly moulds. 6) Cover with wax discs I have already done a recipe for strawberry ice cream in another op, so I won’t do another here, simply substitute blackcurrants for the strawberries. Blackcurrants can also be used with cooking apples to make a tasty pie, or crumble, and together with other soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc) can form the basis of a cold Summer Pudding. They can be stewed and added to yoghurt, pureed and mixed into a rice pudding, or simply used as a decoration around a fruity cocktail drink. When you consider the size of a single blackcurrant, it’s amazing how much goodness you can get from it. Unfortunately, the darned birds thin
k so too! But I’m lucky, I still manage to pick more than they do!