Post category: Red Currants
In recent years, red currants have been making something of a come-back. The flavour of red currants suits the trend in modern cookery towards tangy, less sugary dishes and using fresh fruits. Red currants are not as strong as blackcurrants, although they combine well. They have a soft winey taste with some dryness when eaten fresh. Most of the flavour is in the skins and the berries have a gelatinous pulp with relatively large pips. The structure of the berries breaks down in cooking and the taste becomes more uniform.
Red currants have been grown since the Middle Ages, derived from Ribes rubrum, a European and Asian species. It is related to blackcurrants and gooseberries, producing fruit that more closely resembles the former but a growth habit – without the thorns – of the latter. Red currants are very easy to grow and largely trouble-free. They can be grown as bushes or trained as cordons or espaliers and could be wall-grown if space is limited.
Cooking red currants
Red currants can be eaten raw or cooked. Often used with other summer fruits, or red fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries or blackcurrants in cooked dishes. Being tangy they can be used with both meat and fish dishes and desserts. They make excellent jelly. They are a very good source of Vitamin C with good amounts of iron and calcium, an excellent source of dietary fibre and contain potassium.
Growing red currants
Site and soil: Red currants are quite tolerant of site and soil conditions, but bushes heavily laden with fruit often split branches so some shelter is important. They do not need rich soil but not too dry or hungry soil either.
There are a few varieties but the one most likely to be encountered is ‘Red Lake’, sometimes no variety will be given, just ‘red currant’.
Dig over the ground and remove perennial weeds in advance of planting. One or two bushes will suffice most requirements, spaced up to two metres apart each way, or as little as one metre apart if wire or wall trained.
When the leaves colour and begin to fall, planting can be carried out using two-year old bushes. Bushes can be started off from cuttings in November too.
Normally the bushes are trained on a short ‘leg’ and the branches radiating like the spokes of a wheel, training five or six main branches into position. Trained plants will have a single stem for cordons, or spreading branches for espaliers and fans, tying them to shape as they grow.
For the first two or three years, pruning will be the shaping of the plant. Later, pruning will consist of cutting back side-growths off the main branches to about five centimetres, allowing the development of fruiting spurs along the main branches.
Pick the fruit wen ripe. It lasts well on the bush, but birds will take a lot of fruit, especially in dry weather. The fruit can be frozen or cooked and frozen.
There is a range of diseases and pests, including gooseberry sawfly caterpillars and greenflies, but generally the bushes escape fairly well.