They’re easy to grow, they’re incredibly good for you…. and yet hardly any of us grow them. When you think about the many other useful qualities of red, white and blackcurrants (such as the fact that they give enormous crops and they’re among the few fruit bushes to tolerate shade), this obscurity becomes all the more perplexing.
Certainly, if you do the maths, they are well worth growing. An established redcurrant bush can yield around 4.5kg (10lb) of fruit per year, for at least 10 years. At current supermarket prices, that’s around £450 worth of fruit from a plant that costs less than £10 to buy.
- Move aside blueberries – you’re not the only ‘super fruit’. Studies show that the good old blackcurrant is just as good for you, if not better. Read more
This summer is the third season I’ve been growing currants on my allotment, and having learned a few lessons along the way, I’ve been inundated with fruit. Before I get to a delicious ice cream recipe, here’s my nuggets of wisdom…
Learning the hard way
- Blackcurrants need to be left on the bushes for a week or so after they’ve turned black, so they can ripen fully. But don’t leave them much longer, otherwise they will start falling off. Redcurrants can hang on the bushes for a while, getting gradually sweeter and darker in colour. So can whitecurrants, although they seem more prone to withering on the bush.
- Don’t plant them too closely! They may look like little twiggy things when you plant them but they very quickly turn into stocky shrubs, needing planting 1.2 – 1.5m (4-5ft apart).
- Net them as soon as the berries start to show some colour. I had none at all the first year I planted mine – the birds descended and stripped the bushes bare.
When it comes to harvest time, remove the strings of berries, known as ‘strigs’, from the plant intact. Back in the kitchen, the berries are then easily combed off with a fork. Currants’ acidity and vivid colours make other fruit look and taste all the better. They freeze wonderfully – either de-stalked and ready for cooking, or as whole strigs for garnishes.
I got bored of freezing blackcurrants for crumbles and smoothies, so I decided to make ice cream instead. Much more fun!
350ml double cream
Gently heat the the blackcurrants and sugar in a saucepan with 100-150ml water (the amount of water you need depends on how juicy they currants are). The amount of sugar is a matter of taste – remember that food tastes less sweet when it’s cold.
When the blackcurrants have softened and started to break down into a bright purple mess, pour them into a sieve placed over a large bowl. Use a spoon to push them through the sieve and extract as much juice as possible. Discard the skins and pips in the sieve and set the juice aside to cool.
Whip the cream then fold in the blackcurrant juice. Then pour into an ice cream maker, or use a large tupperware container and freeze. After an hour take the container out, mash the mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals and refreeze. Repeat. And enjoy!
(recipe adapted from http://www.copasfarms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Blackcurrant-Ice-Cream.pdf)