BEST BLACKCURRANT VARIETIES
By David Marks
Up until 1975 almost all commercial blackcurrants were the variety “Baldwin”. Although tasty this variety was prone to late frosts and mildew.
Then in 1975 the variety Ben Lomond was introduced. With late flowering and (initially) resistance to mildew it was far better for commercial growers and amateur gardeners. One of its failings though is that it needs a hard winter to flourish and in many Southern areas of the UK this does not occur. Other “Ben” varieties have been introduced over the years. Some varieties are aimed principally at the commercial whilst others are intended for amateur gardeners.
This is normally the heaviest cropper of all the blackcurrant varieties, even so the plants are compact and not sprawling. The berries are larger than normal and disease resistance is excellent. Click here for our page solely devoted to the characteristics of the excellent variety.
The most commonly grown blackcurrant variety by UK gardeners and with very good reasons. It was first released for sale in 1988 making it a relatively new variety. It has top class resistance to big bud mite (gall mite) which affects many other types. The resistance comes from the fact that this is a cross between several other blackcurrants and a gooseberry plant!
Ben Hope is a very strong grower and even if the odd pest or disease does affect it the strength of the plant is sufficient to grow out of the problem. Tolerant of a large variety of soil conditions. Keep the roots of this variety well mulched and you have a bullet-proof grower. The bushes grow larger than average, to a height and spread of 2m / 6ft so allow slightly more space compared to other varieties.
As far as pests and diseases are concerned Ben Hope is also resistant to mildew and leaf spot. This makes it an ideal choice for those who hate spraying their fruits with pesticides and other chemicals. The fruits are medium sized and the yields are on the high side, the flavour is highly rated for pies, jams and other uses, delicious when sprinkled over a breakfast cereal. The plant is an upright grower which makes picking the berries a pleasure.
The first of the Ben varieties to be introduced in the UK. The key benefit of Ben Lomond is that it produces its blossom relatively late in the spring which reduces the effect of late frosts. It also does well in cooler areas, benefiting from a hard winter. So this variety will do well in the Midlands and cooler areas in the UK.
When first introduced Ben Lomond had good resistance to mildew however over the years this resistance has significantly reduced. Good pruning will go a long way to reducing
the risk of mildew.
The fully grown bush (after four or five years) will be about 1.5m (4½ft) and is compact and well formed. The fruit are very high in vitamin C with top quality flavour for pies and juices. The fruit lasts longer than most when left on the bush and they are largish and firm berries. Yields are high.
Living in the Midlands, this this our favourite variety. To solve the mildew problem we prune annually and keep the centre of the bush open to allow good air circulation. This variety is widely available in shops and online.
Introduced specifically for the amateur gardener and Pick Your Own” growers, Ben Sarek has very large berries which are sweeter than most. The large berries can sometimes be a problem because they can weigh down the branches which may then need some light support to stop them breaking.
The blossom is produced late in the year (though not as late as Ben Lomond) making Ben Sarek unlikely to be affected by late frosts. It grows well in almost all parts of the UK although warmer far southern areas may want to select a different variety.
This is a low growing variety and will hardly ever exceed 1.2m / 4ft in height, it also has a compact form. Some resistance to mildew. A lax growth habit, low disease resistance and uneven ripening led the RHS to withdraw its AGM in 2012.
This is normally the latest cropper of all the blackcurrant varieties and avoids frost damage in almost all years. The berries are slightly smaller than average but the overall yield is high. Click here for our page solely devoted to the characteristics of this excellent variety.
This variety is a very recent introduction and is unlikely to ever be seen in your supermarket because it has been bred exclusively for the Pick Your Own and home garden market. The berries have an average weight of about 2.3g and are delicious eaten fresh from the bush. Click here for our page solely devoted to the characteristics of this excellent variety.
Quite simply the sweetest of all the blackcurrant varieties available in the UK. Eat straight from the bush just like a raspberry. This variety is best restricted to eating fresh because, when cooked, it lacks real flavour. If you do use it for cooking or jam making make sure to add less sugar then normal. The fruits have a Brix rating of 13 on average.
Suited to all parts of the UK, the berries are larger than average and ready to eat from early July making this the earliest of all the blackcurrant varieties. The plant itself is not particularly vigorous, is slightly more spreading than normal, but quickly establishes to produce fruit fruit after a year or two. Disease resistance is average especially as far as mildew is concerned but it is susceptible to botryitis.
Only available in the UK for a few years this variety has exceptional disease resistance to almost all blackcurrant ills. If you have had problems growing blackcurrants before then give this variety a chance. The largest Pick Your Own farm in the UK, Garsons, grew it in 2014 so it must be good!
Suited to all parts of the UK, the berries are medium sized and produced freely. The bushes grow upright which makes picking easier than normal. This is an early season variety. We could only find it available from Chris Bowers in 2015 but expect more suppliers to sell it in 2016 onwards.
A very recent variety in the UK, bred in Sweden, Titania has some very useful attributes. It is a vigorous plant and reaches maturity after only three years. Because it is strong growing it does very well on light soils and those with a low level of nutrients.
Suited to all parts of the UK, the berries are largish and reasonably sweet. They are produced over a long cropping time and the yields are high. Resistant to mildew, it can grow to 2m in height if not regularly pruned. Titania is not so widely available as other blackcurrants at the moment and when this article when originally written it was only available from one supplier. However its popularity is growing and it can now be found from several online fruit specialists including Blackmoor.
COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS
|Date: 19 September 2020
|COMMENT: The problem with nearly all these varieties of blackcurrant is a lack of chill hours as Winters are becoming much warmer in the UK. Blackcurrants need anywhere between 1200 to 2000 accumulated chill hours. Southern parts of the UK can have a compromised yield, if a Winter is warmer than usual. None of the present available varieties have lower chill need to be significant, but SCRI and New Zealand programs are trialling some.
|Date: 06 September 2020
|From: Not Given
|COMMENT: Blackcurrant Big Ben is the best for the home garden and the excellent review reflects well. Also growers might be interested in Aronia Nero to grow alongside it as a companion plant.
WHY NOT LEAVE YOUR QUESTION / COMMENTS ABOUT THIS PAGE?
ENTER THEM BELOW. EMAIL ADDRESS IS OPTIONAL.
YOUR COMMENTS WILL BE ADDED ABOVE WITHIN A FEW HOURS.