The very versitile black currant

I have been gardening for a long time and for most of my 35+ years I have been unable to grow the black currant. It had been an intermediate host for the white pine rust and I have always lived in a white pine state. I always grew gooseberries, a cousin, and was happy at that. I happen to think that gooseberries are greatly under-appreciated. They make great crumbles and even better jams and jelly. As a matter of fact, one of the best jellies for aging, yes jelly does age positively, is gooseberry. Five year old gooseberry jelly is to jelly as a twenty year old Burgundy is to wine. But I digress.

So, a few years back, new cultivers of black currants came along that were able to be planted in most states. Raintree Nurseries has a large selection. One of our favorites is Ribes odoratum ( ‘Crandall’ Clove Currant ). Raintree just calls it a Crandall Black Currant. It not only produces great late crops of black currants but its yellow blossoms in the Spring smell distinctly like cloves. Here is a picture of mine in fruit.

Ribes odoratum ( 'Crandall' Clove Currant )

Ribes odoratum ( 'Crandall' Clove Currant )

We do two basic things with our crop of black currants. My wife makes preserves which I do love. I often use them with yogurt and granola as a breakfast in the winter. We also make Cassis … an aperitif that we make with either brandy or gin. It is often mixed with white wine to make a drink called a Kir. Black currants are hard to kill, hardy in the winter, take little maintenance and are nice ornamental shrubs. The fruit are one of the best sources of vitamin C you can find

All you need is a sunny space about 3′ or 4′ square and you can grow one.

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