Blackcurrants add an exceptional flavour to many culinary dishes and are common ingredients in jams, yoghurt’s, sorbets, summer puddings and many more. If you have any blackcurrant recipes we would love to see them!
TOP TIP: Net your bushes during the summer to protect the fruits from birds.
Planting Blackcurrant Bushes
Make sure your site is well prepared for your new bush to allow the best conditions for healthy growth. Remove all the weeds in the area and dig in plenty of manure before planting. Blackcurrant bushes need to be placed in a sunny position, but some varieties can tolerate partial shade. If you are growing blackcurrant bushes in containers, then make sure you re-pot them every 2-3 years.
Watering Blackcurrant Bushes
Blackcurrants thrive in a well drained and moist soil. Try to maintain a consistently moist soil – this is particularly important for container grown plants which are more prone to suffer from drought. However, avoid over watering especially when the fruits ripen as this can cause the skins to split.
How to Prune Blackcurrant Bushes
Blackcurrant bushes flower early in the season, April – May, this means that they are susceptible to any late frost, so it is important to look after them if frost occurs. Only prune blackcurrant bushes in winter months during their dormant season. This will avoid any damage to the stems or fruit.
Blackcurrant bushes require annual pruning. Once planted, cut the stems back to one bud above the ground level or to a strong shoot. After the first season, prune out any thin or weak shoots. In the following years, prune out any damaged or weak shoots before removing 20% of the remaining stems to create an open bush, and encourage fresh new shoots to develop. If your bush is healthy but struggling to produce many shoots, cut down the whole plant to ground level. Blackcurrant bushes generally rejuvenate well if fed and mulched.
Our top picks
Blackcurrant ‘Big Ben‘ is the largest blackcurrant we have ever seen – and with a lovely sweet flavour too. The large, glossy, strong-skinned fruits weigh on average 2.9g each, compared to a weight of 1.1g in standard varieties! The fruits are borne on naturally arching stems for easy picking and are sweet enough to be eaten fresh or used in cakes, jams and crumbles. Also has excellent mildew resistance!
Blackcurrant ‘Ebony’ is the sweetest blackcurrant! This outstanding dessert variety is so exceptionally sweet that it can be eaten straight from the bush when fully ripe. Heavy crops of large, firm currants – each one up to twice the size of a normal blackcurrant – are produced for harvesting from early to mid July. The bushy plants have a slightly open, spreading habit which makes harvesting so easy.
Blackcurrant ‘Ben Connan’ is early cropping, from the beginning of July, and continues to produce fruit over a long cropping period. From the second season onwards each plant will produce over 3.5kg (over 7lb) of fruit and will keep producing for up to 10 years. With excellent mildew resistance and good frost tolerance, this RHS AGM variety really has it all!
Please send your blackcurrant recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org we cant wait to give them a try
Blackcurrants – easy to grow and extremely good for you
Labelled as the ‘mini marvel’, British blackcurrants are possibly one of the healthiest fruits you can eat. They’re packed full of vitamins and minerals and have many health benefits. Modern breeding methods mean that blackcurrant plants are better able to tolerate frost, especially at the crucial flowering time and they also have better resistance to pests and diseases.
Some blackcurrant facts…
– they’re high in anthocyanins, antioxidants that fight disease. These may protect the body against ageing, cardiovascular disease, eyestrain, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, joint inflammation and MRSA
– they have grown in the British Isles for over 500 years
– they have been used by herbalists since middle ages to treat many ailments, including bladder stones, liver disorders and coughs
– they contain more vitamin C than any other natural food source
– they contain high levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamins A and B and more…
– they can reduce muscle damage during exercise, help to reduce inflammation and even boost natural immunity
– epigallocatechin, an antioxidant present in blackcurrants, has been shown to reduce inflammation in lung tissue, helping to control allergy-induced asthma
– new research led by the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand suggests that “British blackcurrants are the secret weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.” (Quote source: The Blackcurrant Foundation)
Commercial growers have to be very selective when choosing a growing site – the plants are susceptible to spring frosts and summer wind can strip the flowers and fruit (plantations often sited next to woodland, otherwise natural windbreaks are grown using alder for planting in the field, but not common alder). Other suitable trees are pine, alder or birch for perimeter protection. They need to be planted on hill so that cold air filters downhill. Several other factors have to be considered to ensure the highest yield, such
However, home gardeners needn’t be quite so picky. You do need to site your blackcurrant bushes in a sheltered spot and protect them from frost, but they’re still very easy to grow. They prefer full sun, but will cope with shade for some of the day. Blackcurrant plants grow best in fertile soil, so dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost and plant them 5cm lower than the soil mark on the stem. This will encourage extra stems to grow from below ground level.
Blackcurrant Ebony – so sweet, you can eat it straight from the plant
Thompson & Morgan supplies established, 1-year old pre-pruned plants. If you buy blackcurrant bushes that haven’t been pre-pruned, it’s a good idea to cut them down to 2 buds above ground level after you’ve planted them, so as to encourage new growth. Keep your blackcurrant plants well watered during dry periods and especially when the fruit is developing. Prune out any thin or weak shoots after the first season. In following years you should prune out any weak or damaged stems and also cut back 20% of the remaining stems to create an ‘open’ bush and encourage new growth.
Blackcurrants are ready to harvest from July, so if you’re already growing some, now is the time to get picking!
Jams and pies are probably the best known use of blackcurrants, but there are many other ways to use them. Some of the sweeter varieties such as Ebony are delicious eaten straight from the plant. Take a look at The Blackcurrant Foundation’s website for some tasty recipes, including blackcurrant ice cream, smoothies, salads (fruit and savoury), chocolate and blackcurrant torte and many more.
Blackcurrants freeze well, so if you find yourself with a bumper crop, simply wash them gently and put them into freezer bags and containers. A good tip is to freeze them on trays so that they don’t clump together – once they’ve frozen decant them into bags or containers and pop them back into the freezer. They’ll keep for months.
What’s your favourite recipe? You can send recipes to us to be featured on the Thompson & Morgan website – click here for more details. http://www.thompson-morgan.com/recipes
Blackcurrant Ben Connan – resistant to blackcurrant gall midge
Pests and diseases
Birds are the biggest threat to your crops – cover your blackcurrant bushes with nets to protect the fruit from birds, so that you can start harvesting them from July.
Watch out for blackcurrant gall midge, where tiny white maggots feed on shoot tips. You’ll be able to see the maggots and, if you spot them early enough, you should be able to remove the infested leaves. Be careful that you don’t remove too many, otherwise you’ll reduce the harvest. Blackcurrant Ben Connan is resistant to gall midge.
Big bud mite can also be a problem for blackcurrants. You’re most likely to see evidence of it in the winter – infested buds will be abnormally swollen, whereas healthy buds are pointed and long. There are no chemical controls against big bud mite and any infected plants should be destroyed and replaced with new ‘certified stock’ plants.
Blackcurrant plants affected by American gooseberry mildew have powdery grey and white fungus on the leaves, which can also spread to the fruits. It’s made worse by poor air circulation, so make sure your plants are spaced well apart. Infected stems or leaves should be cut out and destroyed straight away.