Currant

Currant, any of a number of flowering shrubs of the genus Ribes (family Grossulariaceae) and their edible fruits. Currants are natives of temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere and of western South America; the Rocky Mountains of North America are especially rich in species. Currants are extremely high in vitamin C and also supply calcium, phosphorus, and iron.



Currant plants are erect or spreading shrubs. They generally are composed of short stems and long stems and may be hairy or glandular and lack spines. The leaves range in shape from roundish to nearly triangular and have palmate venation (their veins radiate from a common point near the leafstalk). The flowers generally are clustered and range in colour from greenish to white, yellow, pink, red, or purple. The fruits are true berries.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

3 - 6 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

3 - 6 feet


Approximate pH

5.5 - 8


Varieties of Currant


Red currants (Ribes rubrum, R. sativum and R. petraeum)



Fruits range in color from dark red to pink, yellow, white and beige, and they continue to sweeten on the bush even after they appear to be in full color. Popular cultivars include 'Cascade', 'Detvan', 'Jonkeer van Tets', 'Red Lake', 'Rovada', 'Tatran', and 'Wilder'. Many people consider ‘Rovada’ to be the best red currant cultivar. Plants are dependable, vigorous, late ripening, and very productive, bearing long-stemmed clusters of large red berries that are easy to pick.


White currants (Ribes petraeum, R. rubrum or R. vulgare)



White currants have lower acidity than other currants, often making them more suitable for fresh eating. The best white currant cultivars are almost transparent. "White Imperial," among the most widely available of currants, produces a large number of small berries with relatively low acidity. "White Dutch" features early-ripening, sweet and juicy berries and vigorous, productive canes, though berries may be small and unevenly sized. Like red currants, white currants are generally self-fruitful but can benefit from cross-pollination with another white or red variety.


Pink Currants (Ribes vulgare)



Pink currants are intermediate between red and white currants, with pink flesh and colorless skin. "Gloire des Sablons" is, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc., the most common form of pink currant in the region. It is enjoyed for its productivity and large berries. "Pink Champagne" is among the sweetest of currants. "Rosasport" also offers clusters of flavorful pink berries suitable for fresh eating.


Black Currants (Ribes nigrum)



Most black currants (Ribes nigrum or Ribes ussuriense) have a strong flavor that makes them more suitable for jellies, syrups or other processed foods than for fresh eating, though there are exceptions. California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. asserts that the best-flavored black currant berries are produced by "Noir de Bourgogne" and that "Boskoop Giant" also features a good flavor. "Titania" and "Ben Sarek" produce large berries sweet enough to eat fresh if left to ripen on the vine. "Wellington XXX" and "Willoughby" can withstand a greater amount of sun than other cultivars. Black currants are partially self-sterile, so plant two varieties near each other for good fruit set.


Other Species


Other species grown for their fruits include the buffalo currant (R. odoratum) and downy, or Nordic currant (R. spicatum).


Species of ornamental value include the alpine currant (R. alpinum); buffalo currant; golden, or clove, currant (R. aureum), bearing spicy-fragrant yellow flowers; and Catalina currant (R. viburnifolium), a sprawling evergreen.

Planting Currant


When to Plant Currants


Autumn is perhaps the best time of year to plant as the soil’s still warm from the summer and your currants should settle in nicely before winter. You can also plant in early spring, before growth emerges.


Purchase bare-root currants from a reliable nursery, selecting either one- or two-year-old vigorous stock. If you’re on a budget, waiting till autumn means bare-root currants are available to buy, and these are usually much cheaper.


Or, plant a container-grown currant at any time of the year; just avoid the very warmest months so you’re not a slave to watering it.


Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site


Unlike most other fruit crops, currants do tolerate partial shade and prefer a cool, moist growing area. After all, they are understory shrubs in the wild. They enjoy sloping ground and sheltered spots such as along the side of a building or a shady arbor.


All currants like rich, well-drained soil that holds moisture well but doesn’t get waterlogged. Incorporate organic matter (compost, peat, or manure) to improve the soil, particularly if it is somewhat sandy. Ensure good spacing and air circulation to avoid powdery mildew.


How to Plant Currants

  • Plant bare-root currants in spring as soon as the soil can be worked or in fall. Currants leaf out in spring; it’s best to plant currants before they leaf out.

  • Plant container-grown currants in spring or summer; avoid planting them in hot dry weather.

  • Red and white currants grow on a short stem or “leg” from which lateral branches or stems spread out. The stem or leg should be free of side shoots to 4 to 6 inches high. A standard bush can have a leg 2 to 3 feet tall.

  • Black currants do not grow on a leg. Multiple black currant stems emerge directly from the ground instead of branching out from a single trunk.

  • Dig a hole half again as deep at the root ball and twice as wide; moisten the hole before planting. Make a small mound at the bottom of the hole and spread out the roots of the plant so that they run off the mound.

  • Plant red and white currants so that the soil mark of the nursery pot is level with the soil of the new planting hole.

  • Plant black currants so that the soil marks on the stems will sit 2 inches below the surface of the soil. The stems of black currants emerge directly from the soil instead of branching out from a single trunk-like red and white currants.

  • Backfill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix. Firm in the soil to be sure no air pockets remain around the roots.

  • Cut back the stems of bare-root black currants to about 1 inch above the soil level; only two buds should remain on each stem. Do this to encourage strong root growth. Container-grown black currants with a substantial root system do not need to be cut back.

  • Water the new plant in with a high phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.

  • Keep the soil evenly moist as the plant begins to grow.


Currant Care

  • Currants are hardy but it’s still a good idea to protect new spring foliage, buds, and flowers from frost by placing row covers over the plants.

  • Keep currant planting beds free of weeds; mulch planting beds with aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to keep down weeds.

  • Protect currants from birds that will eat the buds in late winter and spring and the fruit in summer; place bird netting over plants to exclude birds.

  • Protect new flower buds and flowers from frost in spring; if frost threatens cover budding or flowering plants with a floating row cover.


Pruning and Propagating Currants


How to Prune Currants


Proper pruning will also help you to get the most from your currants. Do this in winter, cutting out any dead or diseased wood, as well as badly placed branches – for example branches that are likely to sag to the ground under the weight of fruit, or branches that are crossing and rubbing.

  1. On blackcurrants you can completely remove up to a third of the oldest canes at a time – usually the thickest and darkest ones – to stimulate vigorous replacements, or to keep it even simpler, just cut out all of the canes that have just fruited.

  2. For red and white currants, aim to encourage an open, bowl-like shape. Prune back new growth by a half and cut the side shoots coming off the main stems to two buds. You also want to keep the short stem, or ‘leg’, that the branches emerge from clear of any shoots.

Whatever you’re pruning, make sure all cuts are made just above a bud that faces out from the bush – this way you’ll get less growth directed into the bush and congesting it – a recipe for disease!


Red and white currants will also benefit from a midsummer prune. Simply cut back side shoots that have grown that season to around three to five leaves.


Propagating Currants

  • Red and white currants can be propagated by hardwood cuttings and tip layering. Black currants can be propagated by hardwood cuttings, tip layering, and mound layering.

  • Hardwood cutting propagation: take a hardwood cutting in fall; strip the cutting of all but the newest leaves and root in organic potting mix; rooting can take up to a year.

  • Tip layering propagation: bend a low-hanging shoot with at least 3 buds to the ground in mid-summer and hold it in place with garden staple or rock. Cover the stem with soil; the shoot will root in a year’s time and the new plant can be cut away from the parent.

  • Mound layering propagation: cut back all branches to 3 inches after growth starts in spring and then cover the stubs with soil; new shoots will appear and take root; they can be cut away from the mother plant and replanted as new plants.


Harvesting Currants


How to Harvest Currants


As soon as the berries start to form, cover your bushes with netting to keep birds off or – if you’re growing lots of fruit – consider setting up a fruit cage to keep all of your prized pickings secure.


Pick them once they’ve taken up their final color. Currants are grouped in trusses called ‘strigs’. You can pick off individual currants, but you’ll find it a lot easier to pick or cut off an entire strig in one go. The simplest way to get the berries off the stalk is to comb them off with a fork like this – so much easier!


How to Store Currants


Currants are precious jewels that won’t last long. They’ll store in the fridge for a few days, but like all berries, use them up as soon as you can. One of the real plus points of currants is that they are a breeze to freeze.


Pests and Plant Diseases


Aphids: Scout plantings for infestations. Use soapy water spray or Neem oil. Monitor early to avoid infestation. Use insecticidal soap and Neem oils. Spray well.


Powdery Mildew: Pruning and plant spacing that can help improve air circulation and reduce humidity. Sprays are most necessary during humid or wet weather in the spring. Apply when the first signs of powdery mildew are apparent and repeat as necessary.


Spider Mites: Predatory mites may help. Avoid use of pesticides which will kill natural enemies. Avoid excess nitrogen which can lead to higher mite populations.


Japanese Beetle: Remove the beetles by hand and put them in soapy water. Pick in the evening and early morning. Adults are generally easy to control with foliar sprays if caught early.


San Jose Scale: Prune out and destroy infested canes before new growth begins in the spring. Certain dormant oils applications (check labels) can help reduce infestations.

Currant Borer Treat in June before larvae enter stems and when adults are present. Bt products are effective only on larvae.


White Pine Blister Rust: Plant resistant (immune) varieties whenever possible. Check with nursery supplier for resistance rating of varieties.


Leaf spot and Septoria leaf spot: Prune and trellis to improve air circulation and promote leaf drying. Avoid overhead irrigation and only irrigate in morning. Remove or cover fallen leaves (source of overwintering inoculum). Fungicides applied before bloom, after petal fall and after harvest are also recommended.


Botrytis and Fruit Rot: Choose a planting site with good air movement and prune out weak canes to speed the drying of plants. Also eliminate weeds to aid in quicker drying of foliage and fruit and harvest fruit before it is overripe. Fungicides should be applied during bloom, with additional applications made during harvest, if necessary.


Currant Cane Blight or Botryosphaeria Canker (Botryosphaeria ribis): Initial symptoms appear as yellowing foliage and leaf wilting of young shoots during spring and summer. Watch young shoots and scout mature canes for the small black survival structures prior to budbreak. Prune out and burn infected canes in spring.


Benefits of Currant


Currant’s nutrient profile makes them excellent antioxidants. In addition, they are also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial, rich in fibre (both soluble and insoluble), nearly fat-free, and great for your eyesight.


Here are some of the significant benefits of currant.


Boosts Immunity


Currants are one of the foods with the highest amount of antioxidants. Foods rich in antioxidants boost your immune system by limiting the damaging effects of free radicals and help fight viruses and infections more effectively. Thus, they help prevent various chronic diseases. The phenolic and anthocyanin content in black currants is primarily responsible for their antioxidant properties, followed by vitamins.


Black currants, in particular, are rich in vitamin C, with 181 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of black currants. According to research, they are particularly beneficial for postmenopausal women with coronary disease.


Healthy for the Skin


The vitamin C content in currants makes them beneficial for your skin. According to research, vitamin C is instrumental in collagen synthesis. Vitamin C, in association with vitamin E, is also responsible for protecting your skin from UV damage. It also promotes epithelium formation and helps your skin heal more rapidly. In addition, it helps heal wounds and minimises scars. Vitamin C is also known for its anti-ageing properties since it boosts collagen in the skin. The copper content in currants is also responsible for collagen synthesis.


Anti-inflammatory


Black currants are rich in gamma-linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that improves inflammatory disease symptoms. As per research, the anti-inflammatory properties of blackcurrants can help prevent inflammation and related disorders. In addition, vitamin C in currants also helps absorb non-heme iron, which has anti-inflammatory effects.


Black currant oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is known to help joint inflammation. In addition, currants are a better source of phenolic acids, which, according to studies, promote anti-inflammation capacity.


Weight Loss


Currants are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre and sugar. Fibre adds bulk to your diet. It helps you feel fuller for longer and decreases hunger. The amount of fructose sugar also contributes to the satiety achieved. Currants also contain a minimum amount of lipid, making them nearly fat-free. Therefore, it can assist in weight loss.


Improves Brain Health


Currants are rich in magnesium, essential for nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. According to studies, magnesium deficiency can lead to migraines, strokes, anxiety, and depression.


Magnesium-rich diets have positive effects on improving post-stroke outcomes. The antioxidant properties of black currant are proven to have neuroprotective effects. In addition, blackcurrant seed oil improves serum fatty acid composition, which mitigates the poor lipid profile in patients afflicted by a stroke.


Promotes Heart Health


Currants are high in potassium and Gamma-linolenic acid, which help decrease your blood pressure. In addition, GLA might slow down blood clotting by slowing down platelet clumping in your blood vessels.


Research shows currants have heart benefits contributing to free radical generation, anti-inflammatory properties, and downregulating foam cell formation. In addition, they preserve normal vascular function and blood pressure. The magnesium content in currants is also responsible for low blood pressure, making it healthy for the heart.


Red currants contain an antioxidant carotenoid known as lycopene, which can lower the risk of heart diseases. Furthermore, currant extract increases vaso-relaxation, which increases blood flow to organs such as the heart or brain, thus preventing the occurrence of myocardial infarction or stroke.


Benefits for Pulmonary System


Black currants are known to improve lung conditions. The proanthocyanidin content in black currants prevents inflammation of the membrane during infection. In addition, it inhibits neutrophilic cellular infiltration, thereby inhibiting lung injury caused by the endogenous inflammatory process. Black currants could also have the potential to relieve asthma.


Good for the Eye


Currant’s antioxidant content helps increase the blood flow to the eyes, relieve fatigue and improve eye function. Furthermore, cyanidin in currants can improve rhodopsin regeneration and dark adaptation, which helps improve eyesight. Black currants are also healthy for ocular conditions like Japanese Cedar Pollinosis. A recent study proved that black currants could also help treat glaucoma.


The HealthifyMe Note


Currants are abundant in their health benefits. They are full of antioxidants and polyphenol compounds. Due to their genus, they are also considered better phenolic sources than grapes. Currants are rich in vitamins, the most significant one being Vitamin C. They also contain a reasonable amount of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.


Uses


Culinary Uses of Currants


Unlike black currants that not consumed directly, red, pink, or white currants can be eaten in their raw or dried form.

  • More often than not, these are used in fruit cocktails or mocktails for their refreshing flavor.

  • Boiled and pureed black currants are sometimes used in mousses or souffles.

  • Black and red currants are often used while preparing jams, jellies, syrups, sauces, wines, liquor, juices, etc.

  • These can also be added to impart flavor to cookies, ice creams, buns, muffins, and pies.

  • Due to their attractive, glossy appearance, these berries are sometimes used for garnishing desserts.

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