(Species: Ribes rubrum - Family: Grossulariaceae)
Redcurrant and its origins
Ribes rubrum Redcurrant is a deciduous shrub that bears edible berries, and is part of the gooseberry family. It is native to parts of Western Europe, including France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Italy and Northern Spain.
However many cultivars of wild redcurrants can now be found growing wild across Europe, even extending into Asia. The first garden cultivars were bred in Belgium and Northern France in the 17th century.
Redcurrants are highly decorative translucent red berries that grow in long, full trails on the stem of hardy deciduous bushes about 1.5m tall. The leaves are pale green and attractively five-lobed. The fruits are produced in midsummer after the insignificant yellow-green blossom. One garden bush provides about 4kg of fruit.
There are many cultivars of which the white currant, with equally attractive berries in pale gold, is one. The white currant is sweeter in taste than the rather tart redcurrant, which improves with cooking.
How to plant: Redcurrant
Bare-root redcurrants should be planted in late autumn or at any time in the dormant season, while container grown plants can be planted at any time of year apart from when the ground is frozen or dry. The red and white currant varieties can be bought as bushes and bought or trained as standards, as well as, space-saving fan or cordons.
Cultivation for both the red and the white currants is identical. Redcurrants are hardy but dislike frost pockets or exposed sites. They like open, sunny positions but tolerate part shade so usefully, will fruit on a north-facing wall.
Soil should be well-drained and fertile; prior to planting, dig in plenty of well-rotted manure. On planting, if they haven't been done so already, prune branches that form the framework by half, cutting to just above an outward-facing bud.
Water the redcurrant well during periods of drought and in late winter, feed the bush with a balanced fertiliser XXX, mulching with well-rotted manure. In summer, it may be necessary to support branches that are carrying a lot of fruit. Protect bushes from birds with a net before the fruit starts to ripen.
Redcurrants are easy to grow, but do require both summer and winter pruning for best fruit yields; the pruning regime is similar to that of gooseberries. In winter, when the plant is dormant, cut back its growth to one or two buds, and cut out any dead wood or branches crossing at the centre.
In summer, cut back all new sideshoots to five leaves each.
Harvest, when all the redcurrants have a glossy sheen and a good colour. Cut whole 'strigs' - stems - of fruits with stalks intact.
Propogation of Redcurrant
Take redcurrant cuttings in mid-autumn, choosing healthy-looking stems about 30cm long.
Make a sloping cut at the top and a straight cut at the bottom. Remove all the side shoots, except the top three or four. Dig a small hole into prepared ground and plant the cutting, with the lowest bud about 5cm above the surface. Water well and look for sprouting foliage that shows it has taken, and transplant in mid-autumn.
Did you know: Redcurrant facts
'Ribes' is from the Arabic or Persian 'ribas', which means 'acid-tasting'.
Aside from redcurrant's nutritional properties - it is rich in antioxidants and redcurrant jelly is also used as a topical application to help heal burns.