Soft Fruit

REDCURRANT (Ribes rubrum) and Whitecurrant & Pinkcurrant

The Redcurrant is native to parts of Western Europe. The Whitecurrant is a cultivar of the Redcurrant and is less sour and pale yellow in colour. It is less attractive to birds as they assume that it is not ripe. The pinkcurrant is another cultivar.

This is a much overlooked berry, which makes the most sumptuous jelly, and ice cream. It is easy and trouble free to grow, easy to pick, and yet is surprisingly rare on allotments or even to buy the fruit in shops. Two fully grown plants should produce enough fruit for most families. If you choose one early fruiting variety and one late fruiting variety, you can have ripe fruit available from July to October.

It is easy to grow anywhere in the UK, grows in most soils and can even cope with some shade. Remember that it is a big plant needing 1.5 m x 1.5 m by 2 m high space. Place the plant at the same depth  as it was growing previously, firm in well with your boots and keep well watered for the first year. Feed the plant with a slow release fertilizer. Some of the older varieties seem to shed their leaves when the berries are left on the bush to fully ripen, especially in dry conditions. There is no need to panic if this happens to your plant, as it is probably diverting all it’s energy to ripen the fruit. It seems to have no effect on the following  year’s crop. The bushes are self fertile, and will continue fruiting well for many years with very little attention.

Pick the fruit when it is almost starting to wrinkle and is as sweet as it is possible to get it. Even at it’s best that will not be very sweet! Lift up the tips of the branches with one hand and pick off the “strigs” or strings of berries with the other hand. You should be able to easily pick up to 10 lbs of fruit in an hour. There is no need to take off the individual berries, as you will probably be simmering the stalks and berries together when you are making jelly. You will be able to separate out the stalks, seeds and skins at the same time by using a “jelly bag”. See jam recipes.

Berries can be used fresh for Summer puddings or decoration. They will store in a fridge for a few days.

For long term storage, it is best to crush the berries and simmer the fruit for 10 mins, before straining through a jelly bag. Then the juice can be frozen or bottled, for later use in fresh fruit jellies. Alternatively, use the juice to make your own classic conserve of Red Currant jelly, completely different from the watered down shop bought version.

Pests and diseases. It is the usual suspects of birds, wasps and the Gooseberry caterpillar again. You really have to net against the birds, as you want the fruit to be fully ripe, almost starting to wrinkle, and get as sweet as possible. Trap the wasps, and spray against the Gooseberry Caterpillar if they are really bad.

Currant Blister Aphid  This is a common pest of red, white and black currants. While it looks bad, it has little effect on the size of the crop and it is not necessary to treat it.

Pruning. It is a matter of removing weak or crossing branches, and those that will reach the ground when they are heavily laden with fruit. Every two years, once the leaves have fallen and you can see what you are doing, prune out some of the oldest wood from the base of the plant.

Red and white currants are frequently grown as cordons, when they will reach 2m or more in height. The main stems are allowed to grow with the side stems kept short. Again, once the leaves have fallen and you can see what you are doing, prune out some of the oldest wood from the base of the plant.

Suggested varieties of Red, Pink and White Currants.

Junifer. This early season Redcurrant is claimed to be a very heavy yielding variety, cropping on both one and two year old wood.

Red Lake. This mid-season variety has the largest crop according to independent tests.

Redpoll. This is a late season, heavy cropping variety with fewer pips.

Rovada. This Redcurrant is a heavy yielding and very late fruiting variety.

Blanka. This  Whitecurrant is a heavy yielding and mid-season variety.

Gloire de Sablon.  An old french variety producing pink, translucent berries. Taste was milder than red currants.

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