Growing Red Currant Bushes and White Currants
Red Currant Bushes and White Currants
Because more exotic fruits are readily available in the shops and with the introduction of frozen fruits out of season, red currants and white currants are not nearly so widely grown and used as in former years. Where red currant jelly is appreciated as a compliment to lamb or mutton, they will always be grown but the eating of red and white currants when cooked in their green state is not so widely appreciated as it should be. Curiously enough, this delicacy was at one time so widely relished in this country that it was carried to the New World and from thence is now coming back home as something new.
One of the detractions even in the best of the red and white currants is not so much the slight acidity of the fruit but the preponderance of seeds. This is often more apparent when they are cooked than when eaten as a dessert. This objection disappears if the fruits are eaten green and before the seeds become woody. The other advantage is that this provides one of the earliest of the fresh fruits from the garden and those currants remaining, benefit from the thinning.
Growing Red Currant Bushes / White Currant Bushes
The red and white currants have another advantage over all the small fruits except the gooseberry, in that they may be trained as fans, cordons and espaliers against a wall or on wires. The advantage of being able to train them on walls is that for the earliest fruits they should be given a sunny position and to extend the fruit until early September they may be grown in complete shade. Provided the fruit is netted, or the birds leave them alone, the fruit will hang without harm for five or six weeks after being completely ripe. More often than not fruit is spoiled by honeydew. This is a deposit from aphids which can be severe pests but regular spraying gives control and the fruit is kept bright and appetising.
Red and white currants will fruit on old wood, the base of spurs of old wood and on new wood, but the best and biggest strings come from the base of new or current growth which has been spurred back to about three or four buds. Both red and white currants are grown on a leg, as described for gooseberries and this is obtained by removing the lower half dozen buds from the cuttings.
In the bush form, red and white currants are best pruned after leaf fall and trained to produce a goblet or wineglass-shaped bush, with about eight to ten main growths springing from a central trunk. The side growths are shortened back and about a half to one third of the length cut from the tips, making a bush about 3 1/2 ft high. When trained on a wall or on wires, the main branches can become more or less permanent as in the case of apples and pears and will in some cases reach a height of up to l0 feet. Every so often these growths should be cut out and replaced by younger wood.
Fortunately they will grow in anyand both red currant bushes and white currants are readily propagated from cuttings of ripened wood inserted in a V-shaped trench of sandy soil from late September onwards. They can be purchased as two or three year-old plants and early planting in late October or early November is essential if they are to carry a little fruit the first year. Unlike the blackcurrant there is no need to cut them back hard, but merely to shorten back the leaders if this has not been done at the nursery.
The berries on even the large-fruited varieties will deteriorate if not fed and to do them justice they should receive an annual topdressing of farmyard manure in the spring and at least one application of a compound fertiliser such as Growmore during the growing season. Where fairly large quantities of bush fruits are grown, the weeds may be kept under control by chemical spraying or by seeing that the ground is clean and spraying with a pre-emergent spray during the early part of the year. This will give control from all except deep- rooted perennial weeds and these can be individually treated by hormone weedkillers.
However, for the ordinary household only one or two red currant bushes and white currant bushes are required and these will provide green fruits for one of the finest fruit salads you could possibly make, and also supply currants for dessert, for making cooling drinks and for jellies. A very palatable wine as well as red currant tea can be made from the fruits also.
Varieties of Red Currant Bushes / White Currant Bushes
There is not a great choice of varieties, Laxton’s No. l is probably the best as this has the largest red berries with the smallest seeds, is a heavy cropper and will continue bearing for many years. Laxton’s Perfection is another good variety with darker fruit and is suitable for exhibition as it hangs well into late August. Fay’s Prolific is early, sweet, dark red and will provide the first of the sweets when green.
Two good varieties of white currant bushes are White Versailles and White Pearl. Both these have very thin skins, large berries and make a very pleasant dessert.