As you may guess from last week’s post, we’re continuing with my friends the Ribes. I like to imagine Rubrum as the younger sibling, maybe even twins! One redhead – the redcurrant – and one blond – the white varieties.
Where Nigrum is big, dark and really nice raw or dried, Rubrum is better in jams, jellies and pastries. Not to say that you can’t make jelly out of black currants too though! It’s actually one of the staples in the swedish cuisine, always accompanying flavourful meat dishes like roasts and all forms of venison.
Redcurrants are unfortunately a favourite not only of mine, but also of birds. So good bird netting is a must, well stapled into the ground so those little winged thieves can’t get under it. As the bushes grow to a good 1.4 by 1.5, make sure there’s enough space between the netting structure and the fruit. This said, you can more easily keep redcurrant bushes in check and prune off the tips if you want it a certain size. The main difference between Ribes and Nigrum is that the redcurrant fruits on permanent spurs, and continuously develop new ones on the current year’s growth.
This means that pruning is totally different. You still want to encourage 2-3 year old wood, same as with Nigrum. But ideally they’ll rejuvenate from a third up the stem (not from the very base!) as some fruiting spurs will sit on the first third and you want to keep those! So the initial structure of the bush is important. If you have a young bush, try to prune it into a vase-structure with 6-8 upright branches coming off a main stem. This also avoids having the fruit at ground level, where ants and other critters easily get at them.
Not a lot of other uses for Rubrum, but in my opinion they are very much worthwhile for their berries alone! And they are happy to be in winter shade as they are deciduous and hardy. As long as they get a decent amount of sun during the fruiting months, the berries go nice and sweet. Talking about sweetness, the white varieties are sweeter than the red, and the birds sometimes ignore them. Another great plus for Ribes Rubrum is that it’s ridiculously easy to harvest. Just take the whole cluster of fruits, lifting it slightly, and it snaps off. Put it in a bucket, and if you’re freezing them or making jelly, no need to take them off the stems.
Next post I’ll leave the Ribes family a little and have a bit of a reflection on the seasons, as ANZAC day is next Monday… as a recent immigrant, I’ve got my own set of traditions which are slowly merging with the kiwi ones. Hope it will bring some fresh thoughts and discussions!
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