(Species: Ribes nigrum - Family: Grossulariaceae)
Blackcurrant and its origins
The blackcurrant Ribes nigrum is a hardy deciduous shrub with edible berries. It is native to Central and Northern Europe, although, a similar species from the Ribes family is also found in Northern Asia.
Blackcurrant bushes have large green leaves and produce racemes of small red-brown flowers followed by bunches of purple-black small fruits, called strigs, in midsummer. They are quite small, reaching a maximum of 2m in height. The leaves, fruits and even the stems have a strong distinctive scent.
How to plant:
Blackcurrants are easy to grow and satisfyingly, produce large crops - one bush yields about 4.5kg of fruit. Currants do need a rich, moisture-retentive, well-drained soil to flourish. Avoid frost pockets because a late frost can damage the flowers which will affect the fruit yield. Ideally, plant the blackcurrant bushes in full sun, although, they will tolerate light shade.
Prepare the soil a few weeks in advance, enrich with lots of well-rotted manure and a balanced fertiliser. XXX
Buy bare-rooted or container grown plants, making sure they are from certified virus-free stock, plant bare-rooted in late autumn, or plant container grown at any time of the year.
Place the currant bush deep under soil, at least 6cm deeper than the plant was previously, to encourage plenty of healthy new growth right from the base. Cut all of the stems back to one or two buds above ground level, except in the case of container-grown plants that are planted in summer, in which case, wait till the plant is dormant in winter.
Keep the blackcurrant bush well-watered during dry periods, and feed with a balanced fertiliser in late winter. XXX Mulch with a well-rotted manure at the same time to suppress weeds.
Blackcurrants should always be pruned when dormant, from late autumn to late winter. The bushes bear fruit on new, young wood. For the first four years after planting, remove weak shoots, with the aim of forming a basic shape of up to ten healthy shoots. After the fourth year, use a pair of loppers to cut out one third of the older wood, to make way for new growth.
Birds can decimate currant bushes, so, cover the plants with netting as the fruits ripen, keeping it taut so no birds get trapped.
New blackcurrant varieties tend to be more disease-resistant but big bud mite, which can reduce the crop and spread reversion virus, can be a problem. XXX
Propagation of Blackcurrants
To propagate blackcurrant, take hardwood cuttings in autumn, when the foliage is beginning to fall.
Choose healthy-looking stems of brown wood and cut lengths 25cm long. Make a cut just below a bud and pull off all the leaves from the stem. Make a sloping cut at the top and a straight one at the bottom. Dig a trench about 15cm deep and place the cuttings into the trench, ensuring that there are at least two buds above the soil, and at least four below. Space the currant cuttings 15cms apart and fill in the soil, firming with your foot. Water well. Leave until the same time, the following year and dig them up, complete with rootball. Plant blackcurrants straight into a preferred garden position.
Did you know:
Blackcurrants contain three times more vitamin C than the same weight of oranges.
The fruits are not the only part of the bush that is used: blackcurrant leaves are widely used in the perfume industry.
The blackcurrant is little known and little grown in the U.S. because currant farming was banned in the early 1900s and is still banned in several states, due to the fact that blackcurrants carry a virus that can affect wood and thus the U.S. logging industry.