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.
Cheese, Sage and Onion Savoury Scones
I realise these scones sound a little odd and festive but they are really tasty! Good for a snack hot with salted butter or instead of a sandwich for a lunchbox – add a little chutney and cheese in-between and it makes lunch a little more interesting!
- 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
- ½ a teaspoon of salt
- 350g self-raising flour
- 150g cheddar cheese
- 190ml milk
- 100g butter
- 1 egg
- 1 onion (very finely sliced and diced)
- About 5 or 6 Sage leaves (washed and thinly shredded)
- Heat your oven to 180C
- Mix all the dry ingredients together
- Cut the butter into cubes then rub it into the dry mixture
- Grate the cheese and add that and all the remaining ingredients to the bowl
- Mix all of these together to form a dough
- Tip the dough onto a floured surface and cut out 3 cm deep discs with a cutter. Place these scone discs on an oiled baking tray
- Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Check regularly to ensure the scones do not burn or brown too fast.
More details on Katy’s smallholding blog
Guest blogger Carole Patilla writes about her love of all things artichoke!
Giants of the garden
“What’s that huge, gorgeous silver-leafed thing?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by visitors to my garden. The answer, surprisingly for many, is a globe artichoke.
Globe artichoke – the giant of the garden
Striking for their architectural foliage alone, I wouldn’t be without them as they add height and drama to the flower border. Their muted greys and jagged, arching shape make them a superb plant to grow at the back of the border to set off dark coloured flowers.
Superb border plants
And if that is not enough to earn these would-be six-footers a place in your flower bed, in addition to producing delicately flavoured, delicious edible flowers in July and August, they are loved by visiting bees (who need all the help gardeners can give them at present). If you choose not to harvest the immature flowerheads for the table, they open to reveal spiky purple hearts resembling thistles on steroids, which have a lengthy vase life as a stunning cut flower. The leaves also are a revelation when used as filler foliage in vase arrangements.
Artichoke flowers – bees love them!
If I have now persuaded you to put these on your gardening wish list, there is still better news to come – they’re one of the few items of perennial ‘veg’ (though technically, the globes are flowers, not veg) AND they are easy to grow.
I always sow globe artichoke from seed, starting them off indoors in a propagator in late January or early February. (If you don’t own a propagator, a sunny, bright windowsill and a plastic bag, secured with an elastic band, to cover the pot will do). You can sow the seed either singly or two per 7.5 cm pot, just in case one seed does not germinate. If both seeds sprout, you’ll need to transplant one as soon as they are large enough to handle. Take them out of the propagator when the shoots have emerged and keep the seedlings indoors to grow on in slightly cooler conditions for a couple of weeks.
I usually start to usher my babies towards the outdoors in stages – putting them in my unheated porch during the daytime only at first, then they get to stay out for night too. When the stems have started to harden off (you can tell this just by feeling them), I release them into my unheated greenhouse but during the colder weather, tuck them up at night in horticultural fleece until they are really growing strongly. Look after them well and they will reward you. When the roots are visible at the bottom of the pot, don’t forget to pot them on to keep them nice and vigorous until late March when they can be planted out into the garden.
If this all sounds far too complicated, and (unlike me) you are able to restrain your gardening urges until the gardening season proper begins, you can sow them outdoors between March and April. Prepare a seed bed and mark out rows 30 cm apart, then sow two or three seeds every 25-30cm along the row. You will need to thin them out later, leaving only the strongest seedling in each group to develop further.
Once you have established plants dotted around your plot, it is also easy to propagate new ones by division in early spring. Using a sharp knife, separate a cluster (at least two growing points) of emerging shoots from the edge of the foliage clump and ensure you also get some of the attached roots. Grow them on until established in pot of multipurpose compost and then plant them out into their final positions.
They need plenty of room (about a square metre) but will earn every centimetre of it with a glorious display from spring onwards. If you leave the dried stems standing, they even provide a dramatic focal point in the winter garden.
Artichokes are a little fiddly to prepare as the tough outer leaves and stem have to be removed. When you have peeled them away and are left with the lighter coloured middle of the flower, scrape away the thistly bit and the pale green heart coveted by chefs is finally revealed!
Artichokes do discolour after peeling, so if you don’t want them to brown for aesthetic reasons, rub them with a cut lemon. They still taste great even if they do!
Fried slivers of artichoke with oil, fresh herbs and garlic
- 4 fresh artichoke hearts, sliced into sixths
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
- salt and pepper
- 2 crumbled dry chillies (optional)
Heat the oil until smoking hot and add the sliced artichokes. Keep stirring them until they change to a light brown colour, which should take about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat, then add the garlic. Lower the heat to medium and when the garlic starts to colour, add 3 tablespoons of water, then add salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook until the water has evaporated. Add the chopped herbs and chilli if using. Check the seasoning – add a little lemon juice to suit your taste.
Read Carole’s blog at Tuckshop Gardener