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Blackcurrant

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This article is about Ribes nigrum, a temperate climate berry bush commonly termed Blackcurrant (Black currant).

Note that Redcurrant and Whitecurrant are a different species called Ribes rubrum, discussed in a separate article (See; Currants).

Taxonomy

Family: Grossulariaceae

Genus: Ribes

Species: R. nigrum

Blackcurrant is therefore closely related to Gooseberry (R. uva-crispa). Jostaberry is a hybrid between R. nigrum, R. uva-crispa and R. divaricatum.

Common Names

  • Garden black currant.[1]
  • European blackcurrant.[2]
  • Gazels / gazles.[2]
  • Quinsy berry.[2]
  • Squinancy berry.[2]

Etymology

The word currant used to exclusively refer to the type of dried grape cultivar ("Black Corinth"). It was shortened from the phrase "raysyn of Curans" (late 14c.), from Anglo-French "reisin de Corauntz" or "raisins de Corinthe" (grapes of Corinth), referring to the Greek harbor of Corinth that was the primary source of export. Gradually, the name got corrupted into currant.[3] In circa 1570 the word was also applied to certain berry bushes of Northern Europe, and later applied to plants with similar fruit in America and Australia.[4]

Ribes (pronounced "RYE-bees") is Latin for "currant” (from Arabic rībās meaning "rhubarb"). Nigrum (pronounced "NIGH-grum") is Latin for "black, dark, sable, dusky."

Range

Blackcurrants are very hardy and will thrive only in cool, temperate climates.[5] Their original range was Europe (excluding warmer mediterranean regions) and Northern and Central Asia.

Native to:

Altay, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Central European Rus, Chita, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Irkutsk, Kazakhstan, Krasnoyarsk, Netherlands, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, Tuva, Ukraine, West Siberia, Yakutskiya, Yugoslavia.

Introduced into:

Austria, Connecticut, Falkland Is., Hungary, Illinois, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Magadan, Maine, Maryland, Masachusettes, Michigan, Minnesota, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Ontario, Primorye, Prince Edward I., Québec, Switzerland, Uzbekistan, Vermont, Wisconsin.

[Source= Plants of the World Online][6]

Description

Deciduous, perennial shrub.[7] Mature height 1.5-2m.[7]

Plants can crop for 15-20 years.[8]

Hardiness

Cultivation

Growing blackcurrants is generally easy and not time consuming.[9]

This plant can perform excellently in a temperate climate forest garden (food forest) as part of the shrub layer.[8] Robert Hart considered blackcurrants (along with other Ribes spp. such as gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants) to be the backbone of the shrub layer of the temperate climate forest garden.[10] Blackcurrants are interplanted with plums in the traditional agroforestry systems of south-western England.[10]

Space bushes about 1.5m apart.[9]

Varieties

Soil Type

Ideal soil for blackcurrants is fertile, heavy clay-loam with lots of organic matter.[11] However, any almost any soil is suitable if it is improved first by adding compost or manure.[11]

Soil pH

Shade Preference

Shade Tolerance

Aspect

Exposure

Propagation

Maintenance

Mulch generously each spring (ideally well-rotted manure).[9] Use general purpose fertiliser (e.g. blood, fish and bone) in mid to late April.[9] In early summer use nitrogen rich feed (e.g. poultry manure pellets, 2-3 handfuls per plant).[9]

Watering

Water during dry periods but not during ripening as fruit may split.[12]

Pruning

Blackcurrants can only be grown as a bush form.[12] They are pruned differently from redcurrants and whitecurrants.[12]

Problems

  • Birds -- likely to be the biggest problem.[12] consider protecting ripening fruit using nets,[9] or a fruit cage made with a frame and wire mesh.[11] With currants grown in the forest garden system, Robert Hart advised a technique of letting weeds such as bindweed and goosegrass start to overgrow when currants start to ripen, thereby acting as a protective screen and hiding some of the fruit crop from birds.[10]
  • Big Bud + Reversion -- caused by big bug mites / gall mites which occupy the buds, giving a rounded and fat appearance of the buds (instead of long and slim). Occurs in spring before bud burst. Check plants in spring and cut off any affected buds and then burn the buds.[9] Reversion virus also spread by gall mites. Causes unnatural foliage and reduced fruit crop.[9] The shape of the leaves changes into something that looks more like a nettle leaf.[11] Affected plants flower earlier with bright than normal flowers.[11] Fruit crop is poor and dies quickly.[11] There is no cure, so the whole bush must be uprooted and burnt.[11] Alternate host is hazel.[8]
  • Leaf Spot Fungus -- leaves turn brown and drop off in midsummer. Gather the fallen leaves and burn them, or put in a hot compost heap.[11]
  • Currant Maggot -- more common in America than Europe. Currants that ripen earlier than usual should be examined for maggots.[11]
  • Currant Shoot (Core) Borer -- causes the leaves at the tip of a cane to wilt. Examine along the length of the branch to find the tunnel. Cut the branch back and kill the insect. Can be prevented by using a winter wash of tar oil spray (illegal for amateur horticultural purposes in some countries, washes based on plant oils available instead).[11]
  • Coral Spot + Dieback -- both caused by fungus, linked to excess nitrogen. Any wood which appears to be dying or has red "coral" spots can be cut back to sound, white wood. Burn affected branches. Stop high nitrogen feed (e.g. manure). Change to mulching with waste vegetable matter or spoiled hay/straw, and a small amount of well rotted compost.[11]
  • Powdery Mildew -- can be a problem with blackcurrants.[12]
  • Aphids

Harvest

Usually blackcurrant plants are heavy yielding,[11] typically 4kg of fruit per plant.[8] Fruit are ripe when they have swelled to maximum size and have a shiny, jet black appearance.[9] The longer the fruit are left on the plant the sweeter they get.[9] If birds are not a big problem (e.g. if the bushes are protected with nets or a cage), it may be better to leave the berries on the plant until they are needed.[11] However if left too long the berries will fall from the plant.[11]

Whole trusses (trigs) of blackcurrants are removed from the branches to harvest.[9] Picking individual fruits off the trusses can be tedious.[9] One method is to hold the thick end of the stalk and pull the truss through the prongs of a dining fork.[9]

Preservation

Blackcurrants store for only 1-2 weeks.[8] If they are to be eaten raw, then keep them on the stalks until they going to be eaten.[12] Blackcurrants freeze well.[11] Remove stalks before freezing.[12]

Uses

  • Fruits can be eaten raw (excellent with cream). Some may find the flavor too tart and acidic to eat the fruits by themselves.
  • Juiced. One blackcurrant juice recepie is to place trusses of blackcurrants into a pan with a little watter. When softened, mash and let juice drip through a mesh bag. Add sugar while still warm (or reduce the sugar by using sweet cicely leaves and stalks, e.g. 3-4 leaves per 450g of blackcurrants, removing leaves after cooking). Dilute with water to drink as a cordial, or add 1 spoonful to a glass of white or sparkling wine as a "Kir". The undiluted juice can also be used as a base for sauces. Keeps for 1 week if refidgerated, or frozen (e.g. in ice cube trays).[9]
  • Teas.[8]
  • Cooked to make sauces (very good with duck), crumbles.
  • Alcoholic drinks, see: Household Cyclopedia, Wines and Ciders (1881)
  • Jam.
  • Jelly.
  • Used in fruit leather, but blackcurrants are too juicy to be used solely, can be combined with a firmer pulp e.g. pulm.[8]

Secondary uses:

  • Bee plant.[8]
  • Fruits used to make purple dye.[8]
  • Blackcurrant seed oil contains vitamin E and is sometimes used in cosmetics.

Nutritional Values

Raw blackcurrants are 82% water, 15% carbohydrates, 1% protein and 0.4% fat (table). Per 100g serving providing 63 kilocalories, the raw fruit has high vitamin C content (218% of the Daily Value) and moderate levels of iron and manganese (12% Daily Value each). Blackcurrants are an excellent source of vitamin C, especially in cold, moist climates.[11] For more nutritional information see Wikipedia article on blackcurrant.W

References

External links