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How to Grow Black Currant

A lot of Americans have never had black currant because it used to be illegal, and while it still is in some states, a lot of states are now allowing its growing and consumption.

Let’s take you through the different information about what it actually is and some of the benefits it brings before we’ll be teaching you how you can grow it yourself, assuming of course that you’re in fact allowed to do so.

What is Black Currant?

Black currant is a ghrown that produces black berries. It requires damp fertile soil for ideal growing conditions, meaning it might be about time that you read through our gardening tips and start turning that clay into loam soil instead.

If you’re only just getting started with your vegetable garden, you may also want to read through our guide on rototilling, thereby loosening compacted soil and aiding its access to added nutrients.

Back to the berry. While you may often run around during the fall to make sure you don’t accidentally miss that first frost date and forget to bring your ceramic planters inside, black currant is very weather-resistant allowing it to live through freezing conditions. It doesn’t mean that it is unaffected by it, but live, it will, and the weather conditions during the flowering time affects the size of the crop, with better weather increasing it.

During the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy its little black berries, which are full of vitamin C. They have a bunch of different ways they’re being used including jam and ice cream. They’re also grown to make juice out of them.

Why is or Was Black Currant illegal in the US?

It is known for suffering from pests and diseases which is what got it banned and made illegal in the first place, with white pine blister rust being what originally got it in the limelight. The diseases carried by the plant was simply threatening the survival of pine trees in the US, a common type of wood used for shiplap siding among other things.

Despite the ban having been lifted in a lot of states, it’s still a relatively rare fruit in the country. White pine blister rust is caused by a fungus which pine trees was simply not able to withstand, and given the vast implications, the plan had to be banned. Gooseberries is another type of plant that carries the disease, and the fungus can cause problems if an infected tree is within 900 feet of pine trees. In addition to that, it’s a type of fungus that’s very resistant to almost anything.

The fungus does however need specific conditions in order to thrive, and by planting the pine trees in areas without those conditions, they’re kept safe. Research has gotten far, and some pine trees are not vulnerable to the fungus. While some varieties may be able to live coherently with the fungus, it was not the case with American pines when the fungus made it to the country.

Why Has The Ban Been Lifted in Some States?

Although having had an effect, the ban wasn’t known for creating the desired results, and some starts therefore started making its planting legal again. Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut and New York are among the places where that happened. Although the ban was overturned these places, you’ll likely only be able to find processed black currant unless you go to Europe. Even if no longer banned, it still has a long way to go before making it into every household in the country.

So What Does it Actually Taste Like?

The taste of it will depend on the grown variety, and is often said to be medium in it sweetness but with the benefit of not being as acidious as citrus, if that’s not your preferred taste. The ben ard variety is more acidious with a rich color to it. Ben rua is more floral and rounded, while the Magnus variety is more acidious. The taste can be polarizing because of how strong it is.

Benefits of Its Berries

Being high in vitamin C, consuming the berry has a bunch of natural benefits that we’ll quickly walk you through, yet another reason tot start growing it. If you’re suffering from dry eyes, for example, eating a lot of vitamin C could help with that, so if most of your work consists of sitting in front of a computer, this berry could be helping you out.

While being known for vitamin C, it also contains vitamin A, B-1, B-5, B-6 and E, which truly makes it a good snack option to consider. It’s also rich in antioxidants, and it’s a great addition to your diet with its anti-aging properties. Got problems with your immune system? Go ahead and add it too. It’s also good for your blood pressure.

Including black currant in your diet could also be one way of helping prevent hair loss, which is why it is also used in its oil form.

Side effects

Some side effects of consuming it include potential gas and diarrhea, and some people may be allergic to it also. With its properties that slow blood clotting, you would need to check with your doctor prior to undergoing surgery or if you have a condition that causes it to be problematic.

What Does Black Currant Actually Look Like?

Given how uncommon it is in the country, you may not even previously have seen it before and might therefore not know what it looks like. To satisfy your curiosity, here’s a picture of its berries.

black currant berries

How to Grow Black Currant

It’s a perennial plant with the scientific name, Ribus nigrum, that is commonly turned into the sweet drink called Ribena, which is very popular across a range of countries in Europe.

It grows the best in hardy through zone 2, and reports can be found online that it grows well in New England, although some of the states such as Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island does ban it. Vermont and Connecticut has no regulation present limiting its growth.

When it gets to about 6 feet is when it’s mature, and it will grow in sandy loam all the way to soil that is light on clay. This range is also the range that is known as having good drainage because of the soils composition, although it still takes fertile soil to grow it, meaning places like Nevada won’t work since the soil is too drained of nutrients. Its pH range it can grow in range all the way from 4.8 to 7. The ideal pH value is around 6.

The disadvantage with this plant is the constant need for renewal since older branches start bearing less and less fruit over time, which is why it needs to keep being replanted, and older ones are replaced by cutting out about one third of the older ones. They should be cut down to the point where there’s either a strong new shoot, or to ground level.

With too much shade, the risk of disease will also go up since the air quality won’t be as good, and better ventilation and air flow is therefore a way to lessen issues with different diseases. Compost or other organic matter should be added to the ground prior to planting it to make sure there’s a rich supply of nutrients for the plant to use. Ideally the compost you add should be rich in nitrogen, as the plant loves it, as well as giving it nitrogen each year too.

Morning sun and afternoon shade is the ideal amount of sun for them, allowing the soil to stay moist.

With the roots’ need to grow, they should have at least 3 feet in one direction and 6 in the other. By pruning it, it will be focusing its energy too, so this can be done strategically giving more energy to shoots with more potential. In order to give them the moist soil that they like, a layer of mulch can be added around the plant, which helps contain the water and will provide nitrogen too. The mulch also helps provide that cool soil, ideal for the plant, which is also why it’s a plant that is easier to grow in climates that aren’t too warm, or steps should be taken to ensure the soil is kept cool. Mulch not only helps with the temperature but also with the moisture levels in the ground.

Pruning

During the winter, the plant will go dormant and that is also the best time that you can take to prune it. Pruning should be done so that 12 canes are left for each plant in order to maximize the yield of the plant. The way you prune it will also depend on the type you have. With black currant, you will want to prune so that the plant gets new wood each season, because that is where the fruit will be coming from, the growth from the previous year. They’re cut rather low, find out where two buds are above soil level and that is where you will want to prune it to.

Limit the amount of shoots growing to give them enough energy to do so, leaving no more than 8, and only the most promising looking ones. This process should be repeated every year when the plant is dormant, and you will want to cut the stems after no more than three years to give way for new growth.

Caring for it

We have already mentioned the type of soil that these like growing in, but if you happen to live in a warmer climate and still wish to grow it, it’s advantages if the soil is slightly more heavy in clay given its better ability to retain moisture. Again, in such climate mulch is especially important. In warmer climates you will also want to make sure it doesn’t get full sun. Although they can handle heat, they prefer temperatures staying below 90F, and they definitely favor colder climates.

With its love for slightly acidic soil, adding nitrogen is necessary. Four ounces of nitrogen per square yard is needed, which can either come from fertilizer or manure. It also needs potassium for ideal growing conditions to the tune of half of the amount of nitrogen that it needs.

You will want to plant it preferably in the fall, but early in the spring will also work. Some people prefer to prune it right away according to previously specified recommendations, although there are mixed feelings about it online.

Fertilizing

You should fertilize it in the late fall with a layer of composted manure that will help add nitrogen, and they’re paired well with marigold too.

Harvesting and Eating

The more ripe they are, the less acidious they will also be. Keep an eye out for the berries and take them when they’re dry and firm. If you take the individual berries off the strig, they’ll go bad a lot quicker too.

People use these for different purposes, including ice cream, jams, wines and tarts depending on your preferences, but they can also simply be eaten raw.

Varieties that Are Resistant to White Pine Blister Rust

There are a bunch of varieties that are better than others when it comes to being resistant to white pine blister rust, and these include Titania, Crusader, Coronet and Consort.