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Black Currant Report 2014

Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 0:15

I haven't seen many comparisons between black currants, but from what I've seen, there is quite a bit of difference between the cultivars in both productivity and taste.

I've got 5 types, all of which I've been growing since 2011. While I picked a few last week, most of the fruit was ripe today. I spent several hours picking, and got about 7 pints. The Consort actually had more, but I got tired of picking them. I may go back later for the rest and a few stragglers from the other bushes.

While they are pretty yucky (to my tastes) fresh, I love black currant jam from the store. The mixed jam I made last year (which also had red and white currants and gooseberries) wasn't as good. So, this year I'm planning to make an all black currant jam.

Now, I need to decide if I should make one big batch of jam, or two small ones. If I do 2, I'll try one batch of Consort (most productive and worst tasting fresh) and one of everything else. Has anyone else noticied if the flavor differences in the fresh berries carry over into the jam? Would consorts stronger flavor (once cooked and tempered with sugar) actually be an advantage?

Name Harvest Taste Problems
Goliath 1 pint C+: Not bad- some sweetness 20% of crop destroyed by some sort of rot
Blackdown 1.5 pints C: Not too bad none
Laxton's Giant 0.1 pint D-: Very strong, spitter light crop
Minaj Smyreu 0.5 pint C: Not too bad none
Consort 4+ pints F: Horribly strong without sweetness, "no-doubt" spitter Mildew on leaves and anoying to pick due to small berries

Here's a pic of the Consort bush, including a few of the white mildew leaves (on the right side of the pic).


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

Thanks for the report Bob. This year I got a lot of Minaj which I like fresh a lot. Black Down I don't like at all, they are not even sweet; I didn't bother to pick them and am going to pull them up. I have a few D-8 and that one is very good but its late and the birds had caught on to black currants by then so I didn't get many.

Anyway its the usual result for me: Minaj is still my favorite. I have grown many varieties over the years but they don't get nearly as sweet and flavorful as Minaj does for me. But, D-8 is looking good so maybe I will have two good varieties.

Scott


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

I had tons of black currants this year until I saw them slowy missing strigs or empty strigs on the plants. I have Ben Serak which I love and Ben Lomond. The black currants are netted and now barracaded. After placing the chicken wire around all six bushes (after netting) I found the culprit. A large mother rabbit with a nest under one of the bushes). My currants are never sweet but they are not bitter and make the most delicious jam and sorbet. I will have about four quarts this year and will make one huge batch of jam. They are excellent! Mrs. G


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

I had tons of black currants this year until I saw them slowy missing strigs or empty strigs on the plants. I have Ben Serak which I love and Ben Lomond. The black currants are netted and now barracaded. After placing the chicken wire around all six bushes (after netting) I found the culprit. A large mother rabbit with a nest under one of the bushes). My currants are never sweet but they are not bitter and make the most delicious jam and sorbet. I will have about four quarts this year and will make one huge batch of jam. They are excellent! Mrs. G


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

I do like a sweet black currant for eating off the plant, but I think their main value is to make the worlds best preserves, juice mixtures and other recipes where you wind up sweetening them up. Yield is so much more important to me because no matter how sweet they are they are too rich for my palate to make them a staple type of fruit as are blueberries in their same season and beyond.

Lee Reich gave me some seedling Russian plants whose fruit are very sweet but the sweetness seems to be derived by the large number of leaves per fruit- in other words, they're not very productive. I have found a similar trait in several particularly sweet, named varieties.

The spitters are just fine for culinary use- even for running through a blender with apple juice, straining, and making a most delicious beverage.

I bet the spitters are higher in anti-oxidants.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by Drew51 5b/6a SE MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 11:57

I myself prefer the reds, but will probably eventually grow some blacks. Thanks for the reports!


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

H-man you are sooo right! Mrs. G


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 1:45

I've done two few more picking, each at roughly 1 week intervals. At this point, there are very few unripe berries left.

2nd week (7/13)- Another pint from the Blackdown bush. Also got another pint of Consort, but it was at least partially from 2 younger bushes which I didn't have the energy to finish the first week.

3rd week (7/20)- half a pint of Laxton's Giant- it looks like this one ripens a couple weeks later than the others, as very little was ready during the first two pickings for it. Once nice thing about the berries is that they are on the large size (though not giant, but I suppose that is relative). It still produced a small crop which wasn't good for fresh eating (the best I found would upgrade it from D- to D). I also got another half pint from the rest of the bushes combined.

Harvestman, I think you're right about productivity trumping fresh taste for black currants. I would argue that larger berry size (easier picking) is almost as important. After all, they are pretty-easy care bushes, so if I want more, I'll just double my planting without doing much more work (and far less work picking), though of course available space is also a concern.

Drew, I agree that reds are better for eating straight, but the blacks are much better in jam. I've also noticed that red currants are fussier than black currants. I've had several reds runt out and produce very poor crops. Every single black currant bush has done well, though a few have gotten mildew on their leaves(which I ignored without apparent issue). I probably could have taken better care of them, but they are somewhat of an afterthought compared to the big fruits (apples (1st in my heart), apricots, pears, peaches, and plums). Of the Red/White currants, Pink Champagne has done the best for taste and productivity (though birds get a lot). Rovada has large berries, but has been a bit of a temperamental grower.

The birds also tackle the reds as soon as they color, but they seem to leave the blacks alone, even when fully ripe. Unlike Mrs G's bunnies, the rabbit I keep chasing around the yard doesn't seem to like black currants.

Scott, I'll have to compare Blackdown and Minaj Smyriou again next year. From what I recall, they were pretty similar to me. Neither was that exciting, but they didn't make my eyes water. I should try taking brix readings next year to get a more quantitative take on it. I completely forgot to try, though some berries are difficult to measure. I do like Blackdown's combination of yield (2nd to Consort), berry size (large), and disease resistance (no rot or mildew yet).

To see the impact of the taste at picking, I made two batches of jam/jelly (strained some/most of the seeds and skins with a colander). One is just Consort (the worst tasting fresh), while the other is the other 4 cultivars combined. I ended up with just under 3 pounds of berries in each batch and divided a 5 pound bag of sugar between the two. Besides a bit of water, those were the only ingredients (black currants have plenty of pectin already). I ended up with five and a half 12 oz bottles of each type. Over the next few days, I'll sample both batches and report on the differences. My first taste from the ladle during cleanup was very tasty- much better than the mixed berry jam I made last year, which was too sweet and mild.

This pic is from the 2nd picking, with Laxton's Giant on the left and Consort on the right (much smaller berries).


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

'....so if I want more, I'll just double my planting....' You don't even need to get new plants. Blackcurrants root incredibly easily. All you need to do is to shove a row of cuttings into the ground and they will grow.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 9:54

That's how I got the 2 younger Consorts- I stuck the prunings in the ground. I've done the same with some of the red currants and gooseberries, which also propagate easily this way. I have most of my gooseberries and currents in a somewhat wet area of the yard (bottom of a hill), They are in raised beds, but the water table isn't that low, so it isn't ideal for most tree-fruits. It may have helped my take rate of nearly 100%- the one I accidentally put in upside down didn't grow :).

Interestingly, this page mentions that full production is happens in 4 years. If I count planting year as year 0, then next year should be my full production for my black currants. It also says that expected production is 3-4 quarts, which is 50% more than my most productive bush this year.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by Drew51 5b/6a SE MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 10:03

When's the best time to propagate currants? I would like to make a few backups of my reds.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

Bob, my blackdown are in a mostly shaded area. Maybe they would be more sweet with more sun. The Minaj are sweet and very productive in the shade.

This year I made back currant sorbet. Its out of this world, the best sorbet I ever made.

Scott


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

Drew51 - I can't tell you the best time. They are so easy I think any time will do. I've done it in midsummer intentionally but I also grew an accidental row by using prunings as pea sticks and that would have been around February. Red currants are also easy and they layer them selves too. Gooseberries I have found to be rather slower and they are traditionally propagated by 'mounding'.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 14:51

I've had success with cuttings in both the fall and spring. I bet any time would work if you can keep it moist.

I had trouble getting gooseberries to purposely tip root, but I've also seen them do it on their own.

Interestingly, the Laxton's Giant and the Minaj are the two black currants which I have in a nicer part of the yard. It gets about the same amount of sun (both areas get lots), but is much better drained soil. Those are the same bushes which have produced the smallest crops. They are well mulched, but maybe currents benefit from having consistently moist soil.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

"They are well mulched, but maybe currents benefit from having consistently moist soil." My black currants grow in heavy clay at the bottom of a slope along which used to run a brook, now filled in. So yes, they like moist soil. That spot is also Rhubarb heaven.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

I might be the only one who actually likes eating black currant off the bush , I believe they make a great accompaniment to red wine . I have an Amos and a Ben Lomond bushes. The first has been transplanted in three different spot in three years and this year got huge and delivered a good crop in June. Classic bc taste with a hint of sweetness and a very thin skin.The Lomond , I only bought it last spring and although is still potted looks like is growing really well and only has a handful of fruits which appear to be far from ripe. Anyone recommends this variety ?
In the pic is Amos a month ago , the fruits are gone and have been replaced by numerous new shots and canes and the whole plant has almost doubled in size...more berries and maybe jam next year!


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

Based on posts last year I bought Crandall. It's the first black currant I've had so I don't know how it compares. Anyone have it that can compare? The berries seem large and good to me, but then again, no comparisons. The sweet scent in the spring is so delightful and.....clovey!


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 2:00

I tried both jellies today and I like the mixed one (with Blackdown, Goliath, Laxton's Giant, and Minaj) better than the Consort-based one. Both were very good, but the Consort had a sharper, stronger taste. The mixed one reminded me a bit of Hero's black currant jam from Switzerland (one of my favorites). If anything, my batch is better, which is a nice change. I still have at least half of last year's jam as it didn't measure up to what I get from the store. I don't think I'll have any problems finishing this batch.

Floral_uk, That's good to know about Rhubarb- last weekend, my mom asked me if she could interest me in growing some and I was hesitant. I don't have much space left, with have plans for the few good semi-open areas. They also have 5X as big a yard... But, if I can use the wet area, maybe should grow some. I should try the other 2 currants there too.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 2:07

MHG,

I have Crandall as well, but don't even count it as a black currant- my sheet has it as a "clove currant". They do have a nice smell and pretty little yellow flowers.

I've never gotten big yields from it, but the few times I have tried, it was better than the other black currants. Maybe a B- on the above scale. But, I'm not sure that I got any that were really ripe- animals (birds?) seem to eat them more than the other black currants. I'll take another look later this week, as I think they are just getting ripe.


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 0:40

I checked out my Crandall clove currant bush and the fruit was about how I remember it- OK, but quite tart. Similar to a red currant, in terms of tartness, but with a richer flavor. About half the fruit was ripe (pictured below).

I planted it in 2011, the same time as the other black currants described above. But, as you can see by the pic, the bush, isn't real productive. The growth habit is also much floppier than the other black currants.

The berry size is pretty good and the fruit is palatable. Maybe I need to let it hang on the bush a bit longer to sweeten up. I'll give that a try and see if it improves, though something could eat it before I get back to it


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

I have a Albol currant Aka clove currant or Missouri currant, nice to eat right off the bush.

Berries still green, picture from another year.


Sept. 8, 2011 photo IMG_9784.jpg


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RE: Black Currant Report 2014

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 1:25

I googled "Albol currant" and found this NAFEX thread. One interesting tidbit:

"Albol currants tolerate hot, dry weather and are well-adapted to Alberta conditions."

I wonder if it would do better planted somewhere else in my yard. I've got it in the same (moist, slightly swampy, though in a raised bed) area of the yard as most of the other black currants.

It could also be that the unknown Albol currant selection you have is just more productive than Crandall. The next post in the NAFEX thread mentions other selections which sound interesting, but virtually unknown.


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