If you grow one berry in your garden, make it a blackcurrant. They are easy to grow in gardens that get some winter chilling. They grow very well here in Nelson, where our winters aren’t what I’d call harsh, but give just enough chill to suit blackcurrants.
A Blackcurrant bush can live for up to 50 years and will produce around 3kg of fruit per bush. They don’t take up much room, needing an area of roughly 1 m square and they don’t grow much taller than 1 m, so are easy to net for birds and easy to pick.
Pruning is a doddle. In winter you just go through and thin out older canes and dead canes at ground level to make room for the new canes and keep the vigour up in the bush. It is easy to spot the difference between the old and new growth.
The bushes flower in October and a late frost can damage the blossoms. We like the Magnus variety of black currant for its vigorous growth and prolific fruiting. Fruit ripens in December and January and freezes very well. They like a rich well drained soil, but I grow them very well on clay with mulch and compost. They don’t like as much of an acidic soil as other berries and they don’t like to dry out.
They make lovely berry syrups and jams that we’ve shared on a previous blog but my current favourite currant recipe, if that makes sense, is this wonderfully rich blackcurrant chutney which goes so well with cheese and cold meat. Classy.
- 500 grams blackcurrants
- 500 grams brown sugar
- 125 grams chopped raisins
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 small onion grated
- 1 cup malt vinegar
- Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive pan.
- Bring to the boil and cook gently uncovered for 30-40 minutes until a thick pulp.
- Pour into hot clean jars and seal when cold
- Makes approximately 1 litre, keeps like a dream and it is so rich you only need the tiniest amount so it goes a long way.
The recipe comes from The Mighty Blackcurrant recipe book published as a fundraiser for our annual Sarau Blackcurrant festival here in the Moutere.