Planting Blackcurrants – More Soft Fruit!

Blackcurrants - grow your own

This year my jam, albeit only a few jars, was a stonking success. I’ve decided that I definitely need more soft fruit in my life so I’ve been busy clearing a few overgrown patches to make way for some more bushes.

At the moment we only grow raspberries, but I’m a big fan of blackcurrants, so thought I would opt for currant bushes. Not too many, just a few at first to see how I get on. I’ve been reading that redcurrants and white currants are less fussy than their black (blue/purple) counterparts, but as I don’t currently have the space I’m going to test myself a bit and go for the slightly more “difficult” option. Let’s be honest though, currants in general are pretty easy to look after – well draining but fertile soil and a sunny position (they will also tolerate light shade) and you’re good to go.

CLEARING A SPACE FOR THE BLACKCURRANT BUSHES

Despite it being December, the soil is still warm so pulling out the tap roots of the self-seeded Alkinet, the nettle roots and bindweed without any dreaded breakages was relatively easy. We then raked over the earth and left it to rest. The next job will be nourishing our poor soil with organic compost before planting in and mulching the bushes before Spring. With a spread of around 120cm (47″) we’ll need to ensure that there’s plenty of space for the bushes to grow without having to compete too much.

BEST BLACKCURRANT VARIETIES

Already I’m thinking ahead to the growing season next year. Generally it can take up to two years after planting for the best yields to appear, but I’m always optimistic for a little harvest! And if I do have a successful crop of currants I haven’t decided whether I’ll be opting for jam, cordial, jelly, fool, cheesecake… or all the above! At the very least, I’m researching the best varieties for my needs, and there seem to be some frontrunners:

Ben Hope – the most popular variety of blackcurrant now grown in the UK. High yielding, great flavour and a significantly reduced susceptibility to gall mite

Ben Lomond – the leading blackcurrant for many years after its introduction in 1975. A heavy cropper that fruits late in the season and fairly frost-resistant.

Ebony – a super-sweet ‘dessert’ variety that can be eaten straight from the bush. An early cropper (around July) and excellent mildew resistance.

I think I might opt for one of each of the above. Ben Lomond’s mildew resistance is lower these days than when it was first released in 1975, but with plenty of air circulation around the bushes, hopefully this shouldn’t be an issue. And not having to add masses of sugar to the Ebony blackcurrants will be a much healthier option for me, especially if I’m aiming to make desserts, cakes, bakes and puddings! That can only be a bonus.

And you know what else is a bonus? Blackcurrant flowers are great for wildlife (and I wouldn’t mind sharing a bit of my fruit crop with the birds either!).

Comments

  1. Good luck, blackcurrants are such a treat. I was lucky enough to inherit three magnificent bushes at the allotment. The summer before last I had more than I knew what to do with. Not so many this year, but still quite a few. You’ve got me thinking about blackcurrant cheesecake now…

  2. Blackcurrants are one of my favourites and I’ve found Ben Hope to be excellent. Happy planting, picking and puddings!

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