The remaining harvest from two blackcurrant bushes. Once stalks are removed and fruit rinsed, the blackcurrants are frozen in small lunch boxes for adding on top of hot porridge at any time of year.
To paraphrase Eamon Dunphy - I got a good – not a great – blackcurrant harvest. Whereas last year, the blackcurrants were in great clusters amidst the verdant vibrant foliage, this year I had to search for sparser clumps of fruit. Anecdotally, I notice fewer butterflies and flying insects such as hoverflies and bees this summer compared to last year. The cold and wet weather and less sunlight may all be factors. I guess I should be thankful to have a harvest, mediocre as it may be.
To help me find every last ripe blackcurrant, I took secateurs in one hand and collecting container in the other. Found myself a low seat and went currant spotting! The old branches bejewelled with fruit were cut out at the base and the fruit could then be picked in comfort from the pruned branch. The harvesting also became a thinning exercise. In the autumn I will mulch the blackcurrant bushes with compost and hope they grow again vigorously next year. Mind you, they are around 20 years producing fruit every year, so they have given great service, you could say.
The garlic has ceased growing and the leaves have turned brown indicating the time to harvest has arrived. I took the chance of a fleeting dry spell to lift the new bulbs and set them aside to dry naturally in an old metal griddle, out of the rain. A bit disappointed with the size of the garlic bulbs which I dug up with a garden fork. I guess the mild winter and wet summer do not make for good garlic growing conditions.
However, the first garlic bulb has already been used in cooking. No complaints about the taste – small is beautiful as E.F. Schumacher said! Being freshly harvested cloves, the skin simply rubbed off in my fingers. I hardly needed a knife to prepare the home grown garlic for cooking.
The rain is a pain for most growers, except for the lucky ones who are mainly tunnel or greenhouse based. That being said, the peas, beans, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, chard, beetroot and herbs are growing well outdoors
This year’s garlic harvest. Smaller than last year due to milder winter and wetter summer.
. The lettuces look a little battered and sad, while the apples could do with some sun, like us all! In the next dry spell, I hope to get time to harvest the blackcurrants. Rain or shine, they are ready for the table or the freezer. Blackcurrants are a taste of a sunny summer’s day, which I can imagine if I eat them with my eyes closed, topped with some yoghurt and honey!
Fellow kitchen gardener Cathy Gaffney from down the road and her daughter Jenny helped this year to pick and share blackcurrants while the weather was dry.
I get a generous crop from just two blackcurrant bushes – or ‘Ribes Nigrum’ as the Romans (or Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’) might have said! A GIY friend was saying how the birds devour her blackcurrants and she needs to net the bushes. Maybe the variety I use is not so palatable to birds – but I certainly like it, as a dessert, on porridge or as a drink when juiced. I do not have time to make jam from it so I freeze any surplus in batches to use during the year.
I did not know much about fruit bushes when I bought and planted these two bushes in 1996. As luck would have it however, I accidentally gave them ideal conditions. A well manured deep soil and moisture during the summer, a regular mulch of lawn clippings and a pH of around 6.2 . The bushes are planted on the moist banks of the small garden pond so the roots never dry out.
The only snag is the fruit is difficult to reach with all the growth nearby. So I cut out and take away the stems using a secuteurs. I can then pick the mature fruit at the kitchen table. This makes the harvest an easier and more sociable activity. At the table a kitchen fork can also be used to remove the bulk of the fruit which speeds up the operation.
One drink using balckcurrants I have not yet tried is Cassis – apparently it is made from the juice mixed with a dry white wine and I’m told it goes down a treat on a hot day. Let me know if you can vouch for this or if you have other useful tips about the beautiful blackcurrant.