Red Currant (ribes rubrum)
White Currant (ribes rubrum – albino cultivar)
Blackcurrant (ribes nigrum)
Native blackcurrant (Carissa spinarum) is not a true currant – conkerberry bush tucker
Deciduous woody shrubs growing 1m (3ft) tall thrive best in cool to temperate climates. They are relatively low-maintenance plants, and can also be used as ornamentals due to their attractive berries and foliage.
Currant bushes in Australia do best in partial sunlight; they can be grown in areas that may be too wet and shady for other fruit.
Currants grow in any moist, well manured soil. Avoid planting in hollows where frosts can settle and also where soil can become waterlogged. Keep weeds down and water during dry periods. Plant 1.5 – 1.8m apart whilst dormant in autumn and tie up with supports. If espaliering in cordons they can be 40cm apart. Every midsummer, after harvesting, cut back laterals to 3 – 5 leaves. Any well ripened canes can be used to strike new plants. After planting prune shoots to four buds above ground level and remove their unripened tips. Prune a quarter of the old wood each year including any dead or diseased wood to keep the plant vigorous. Do not prune new wood.
Blackcurrants commence ripening earliest in summer and the white and red varieties in mid-summer depending on temperatures. Pick only when they are properly ripe leaving blackcurrants for about a week after turning black.
All currants freeze well. White and red currants do not store well and should be eaten fresh soon after harvesting. Blackcurrant fruit can be eaten raw, but its strong, tart flavour requires sweetening to be palatable. It is usually cooked with sugar to produce a puree, which can then be sieved to make juice. The puree can be used in jam, jelly, cheesecake, yogurt, ice cream, sorbet, and many other dishes both sweet and savoury. The juice forms the basis for various popular cordials and alcoholic beverages.
Varieties suitable for the Sydney Basin
Ribes Nigrum Black currants when not in fruit all parts of the plant are strongly aromatic with the familiar blackcurrant fragrance. In midsummer the green fruit ripens to an edible very dark purple in colour, almost black, with a glossy skin and containing several seeds dense in many nutrients. An established bush can produce up to 5 kilograms of fruit.
Blackadder is a compact form from New Zealand. It has proven monoamine oxidase inhibition (MOA) and assists cognitive function.
Ribes Rubrum Red currants are deciduous bushes. The flowers are inconspicuous yellow-green, in pendulous racemes maturing into bright red translucent edible berries with 3-10 berries on each raceme. An established bush can produce 3-4 kilos of berries from mid to late summer.
Ribes Albino White currant’s flowers are a pale yellow-green, maturing into translucent berries with a pink to white hue or fully translucent with a greenish tinge. They are often served raw and provide a sweetly tart flavour.