This week on the allotment I have been picking the last of my Blackcurrants, once picked they then need sorting through to remove leaves, stems, squashed or bad berries and any unwanted creatures that have managed to find their way into the tub, I wash them in a colander and spread them out onto trays covered with kitchen roll to dry out before placing in containers and in to the freezer to use later on.
Blackcurrants are packed full of Vitamin C and potassium, hot blackcurrant juice is a long established remedy for sore throats as it contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In Britain there are over 5,000 acres of Blackcurrant Bushes producing 30,000 tonnes of Blackcurrant although you won’t find many Blackcurrants for sale in shops the main reason being that 95% of the Blackcurrants grown in Britain are used to make a well-known Blackcurrant Cordial.
Blackcurrants are easy to grow in the garden and when established you can expect 4.5kg of fruit per bush, they can remain productive for 10-15 years. Blackcurrant bushes are widely available in garden centres, nurseries and online they are supplied either bare root or in containers, there are many different varieties available cropping from early July until late August giving you a long harvesting season.
Bare Root plants ideally should be planted November-March but not when the ground is waterlogged or frozen, container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year if the weather is suitable, leave 1.5m between each plant.
Choose a sunny, sheltered site which isn’t prone to waterlogging, if this is a problem grow in Raised Beds which have improved drainage, a few weeks before planting your fruit trees/bushes dig over the bed incorporating compost, well-rotted manure or garden compost, remove any weeds or large stones and sprinkle a general fertilizer on the surface. To protect your fruit crop from birds and animals consider planting your fruit bushes/canes inside a fruit cage, this will also protect any vegetable crops too.
To plant bare root plants dig a hole wide enough for the roots to spread out, the old soil mark on the stem needs to be at least 5cm deeper than it was originally, planting deeper encourages young vigorous shoots to grow from the base of the plant. Backfill the hole with the soil and some compost/well-rotted manure, firm in well and water.
Blackcurrants are produced on mature stems, each year between November and March prune out the oldest stems these are the ones that are very dark in colour and any that are weak, diseased, crossing and very low leaving an open bush, next year new stems will grow which will replace the old ones that you have removed. In Spring sprinkle a general fertilizer around the bush and then apply a thick mulch of garden compost or well rotted manure.
My Blackcurrants are destined to be used in delicious Crumbles or made into Blackcurrant Jelly, here is the recipe that I use for my Blackcurrant Jelly from the Certo website.
2 lb (900g) Blackcurrants
1 pint (600ml) Water
3 lb (1.4kg) Sugar
1⁄2 Bottle Certo
What you need to do
- Wash fruit and crush thoroughly.
- Put the fruit into a pan. Add the water bring to the boil then simmer covered for 10 minutes or until the skins are soft.
- Strain through a jelly bag and measure the juice into a pan. If necessary make up to 2 pints (1130ml) with water.
- Add the sugar and heat slowly stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 1 minute.
- Add the Certo and continue boiling for 30 seconds.
- Remove from the heat, skim if necessary.
- Pot and cover in the usual way.
Makes 5lb of Jelly.
Delicious and a taste of Summer to enjoy throughout the year, a jar makes a lovely home-made gift.