Sitting on the back of the blueberry super-food craze, the humble British blackcurrant is having somewhat of a revival. With most of the country’s blackcurrant production going to either Ribena or Danish bacon – they use it as an edible ink for printing the words ‘Danish Bacon on their food – the current fashion for any food that has credible medical benefits has started to see a change in the blackcurrants fortunes.
“…bursting with more health-promoting antioxidants than most other vegetable and fruits, including blueberries…”
Not only do they contain more vitamin C 'weight for weight' than a fresh orange, they are also packed with high levels of vitamins too.
Research has also shown that these high levels of potent antioxidants have beneficial effects against a range of illnesses and conditions including heat disease, Alzheimer’s and the super-bug MRSA. Blackcurrants also contain several rare nutrients, like GLA ( Gamma Linoleic Acid, a very rare Omega-6 essential fatty acid) and MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors).
The high levels of anthocyanins that are found in blackcurrants are also shown to be beneficial in warding off ailments including heart disease, cancer, again - Alzheimer’s disease (2006 Tuft’s University Study), diabetes and high blood pressure. But using blackcurrants to treat illness isn't a new phenomenon as they been used since the middle-ages to treat bladder stones, liver disorders, coughs, chest ailments, urinary problems, and various skin conditions
Eating fresh blackcurrants or drinking blackcurrant juice is an easy way to get access to these health promoting natural chemicals but if you are buying them from the supermarket then you will need to be aware that the longer these fruits stay on the shelves - the further the vitamins levels inside the fruit will drop.
Worst still, if you are buying blackcurrants in a carton of refrigerated smoothie you will see on the packet that they have been pasteurised to maintain their freshness. Unfortunately the pasteurisation process also destroys many of the natural health giving enzymes and proteins that are contained within the fruit. The truth is that – at least with regards to blackcurrants - the fresher they are, then the better they are for you, and if you want the freshest crop then you can do no better than growing them in your very own garden.
On English soils the blackcurrant is relatively easy to grow although they will do best on a slightly acidic, heavy clay loam situated in a sunny, sheltered site away from strong winds and late frosts. Preparation is - as always - important so before planting, dig over your soil adding plenty of well rotted farmyard manure. On lighter soils you may also wish to add leaf mould or any other organic matter as this will help to reduce its free draining properties and typical leaching of nutrients.
As blackcurrants produce fruit on stems grown the previous year it’s important to achieve a regular supply of fresh growth year on year. This is done by either growing it as a multi-stemmed bush or by using the ‘stool’ method which allows the bush to grow out from a single basal stem. By raising the main bush up from the ground this way you are also allowing good air flow around your plants and in so doing reducing the incidence of grey mould which can be particularly troublesome in most soft fruits.
Water your plants well after planting and continue to do so during hot dry weather in the first year as blackcurrants are relative shallow rooted.
If you are you are growing a multi-stemmed bush then you have nothing more to do, but if you want to encourage stooling then you need to remove all but one healthy stem which again is cut back to within a couple of inches of the soil line. These can now be left for two more years before they need pruning again
In subsequent years mulch your bushes every spring with a well rotted farm manure, this will help to add valuable nutrients to the soil, conserve moisture and help to keep down the weeds as blackcurrants have difficulty competing with them. If your plants are growing strongly then you may wish to change your mulch to something less rich such as straw, leaf mould or wood chips.
For more information click onto: