There are few things I love more than the taste of black currants. They’re notoriously hard to find fresh or even preserved in the US, and I’d never tasted them until a trip to France a few years back. Now, everytime I see black currant preserves or cassis anything, it goes into the shopping cart. That sweet/tart/slightly musky taste is intoxicating!

The reason for black currants’ exile from the US is that they were long thought to be the vector of pine blister rust infection. And while some varieties of black currants do suffer from pine blister rust, they haven’t been found to transmit it to pine trees. A few states still forbid shipping or planting them, and some states, like Ohio, my home state, only allow pine blister resistant varieties to be shipped or planted. Raintree Nursery had a few varieties of pine blister rust black currants available, and because I love them so much, I chose two kinds to plant in the yard.

The Ben Sarek Black Currant bush should grow to three feet and sets big, shiny currants in early June. Titania will grow to six feet, and ripens a few weeks later, to extend my harvest to about a month. While I’m sure we’ll eat plenty fresh, I’m planning to preserve lots and lots for a sunny taste of summer any time.  

Ben Sarek Black Currant

The shrubby growth will be a nice balance to some nonedible shrubs on the opposite side of the yard. I think I’ll plant these into the landscape rather than in a “garden patch.” They will complement a pair of red currant bushes (no variety listed) I planted last year – I should say, twigs. I saw the two sad plants marked down to $5 each at Lowes, and decided on a whim to plant them. Neither took off last year, and one looked completely dead and bare by August, but I did notice the beginnings of leaf buds on both. Maybe they’ll produce some berries this summer.  And while I’ll likely have to wait until next June for some tasty black currants, they’re each supposed to produce 10 pounds a year – I’m excited!

Black Currant Preserves!