Together with ribes sativum, a white fruit, and R. nigrum, with a black-violet fruit, this deciduous shrub, of a size close to 120-150 cm, is widespread in Europe, North America and Asia. It constitutes a vigorous stump, from which erect, cylindrical, rigid, poorly branched stems branch out; the leaves are deep green and have 3-5 lobes, with a toothed margin. In spring it produces small clusters consisting of 15-20 whitish flowers, which, in late spring or early summer, give way to small roundish, shiny, fleshy fruits with a very aromatic taste, especially in the case of R. nigrum. Currant is used for fresh consumption, or to prepare fruit preserves or as a flavoring. A particular type is the gooseberry, R. uva-crispa, with larger fruits, which grow in small bunches on thorny, very vigorous stems; it has a sweeter taste than the common currant.
Variety of currants
It is a deciduous shrub that includes several varieties. In fact, within the genus there are various varieties with a red cluster fruit, a variety with a black or violet cluster fruit and a variety with white or yellow clusters. The most prized varieties are those with a red cluster, but no less appreciated are those with black or purplish bunches. Among the red cluster varieties we mention Junifer, a native of France and early ripening, and Rivada, a Dutch variety with late growth and large fruits. Among the yellow varieties we mention instead Victoria, a rustic species, easy to grow and with an average maturation time. The most common black cluster varieties are Titania and Black Lamond. The latter, rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, are better suited to the preparation of jams and fruit juices.
For greater production of fruits the currants prefer to be placed in a sunny place, or in any case very bright; in fact, however, these plants develop without problems even in the shade or in partial shade. They do not fear the cold, even during particularly harsh winters; in places with very hot summers they need to be shaded, especially during the months of July and August. Currants placed in places with particularly high annual averages may not produce fruit.
These shrubs are generally satisfied with the rains and do not need large amounts of water; in periods of prolonged drought and during fruit ripening, occasional watering is advisable. In spring and autumn, bury mature organic fertilizer at the foot of the stump.
The currant loves the deep, loose and rich in organic matter soils; in general it is able to adapt to any type of soil, except those that are too wet or acidic. The currant plants tend to produce numerous basal shoots, which bear fruit from the second year for 2-3 years; in general there is a tendency to prune the branches that have already borne for some years and also some of the new basal suckers if they are very numerous.
Usually it is practiced by woody cutting, using portions of stem that are at least two years old. Currant is multiplied by seed and cuttings. The first propagation method takes a very long time to take root and it is for this reason that we prefer to use the cutting. This method guarantees good results already the following spring. Woody cuttings about twenty centimeters high should be taken from the mother plant. The operation takes place between November and February. If, on the other hand, the cutting is obtained from a plant not present in its own soil, perhaps from plants in the nursery, then the transplant must take place in the summer. To bury them at best, the cuttings should be inserted, for half of their length, on holes dug on the ground. During the operation it is also necessary to foresee the use of rows that support the roots of the plant during the growth phase. At the end of the cuttings plant, proceed with an abundant irrigation.
Pests and diseases
It is a vigorous plant free from pests and diseases; occasionally it can be hit by white mal. It can be attacked by parasitic insects and diseases. The insects that most affect the plant are scale insects and aphids. These parasites mostly infest the branches and dry leaves not removed during pruning. To combat them, specific insecticides must be used. In particular, in the currant the attacks of the yellow aphid are more present. There are also numerous funghine pathologies, including powdery mildew or white powder, gray mold and root rot. The white mal mainly attacks the blackcurrant. San José's cochineal attacks are also very harmful to the plant. This insect is fought with the same insecticides used for the other species of scale insects. Another fearsome currant is the anthracnose, a fungal pathology that devours the leaves. The same symptoms of leaf fall are caused by rust and septoria, phytopathologies always caused by pathogenic fungi. It is particularly sensitive to the attacks of sesia, a butterfly that appears in June and that lays its eggs at the base of the new shoots. The larvae, as soon as they hatch, begin to dig tunnels in the branches, causing them to dry out. To combat this adversity, it is advisable to eliminate and burn the affected branches.
For the currant two types of interventions are envisaged: breeding pruning and rejuvenation. In the first case, side branches and suckers are removed to give the plant the desired shape. The main forms of cultivation for the currant are the fusetto, with central astone, the palmetta, with two or three branches supported respectively by three threads, and the bush. In the spindle shape all basal suckers are removed, in the palmette the basal suckers are always removed and the lateral branches are shortened; in the bush form, however, three or four suckers are left and the older one is removed each year. Every year horizontal branches and excess suckers should also be eliminated. Also remember to prune dead branches and damaged leaves to prevent the development of diseases and insect pest attacks.
The currant has many medicinal properties. Its fruits have laxative, diuretic and purifying properties. The beneficial effects of currant fruits depend on the presence of sugars, vitamin C, mucilage, pectin and organic acids. Currant fruit juices also have a disinfectant and refreshing effect on the intestinal tract. In ancient times, however, the leaves of the plant were used to combat very serious forms of tuberculosis.
Currant and gooseberry, another species always belonging to the genus Ribes, includes about three hundred different varieties with bunches of different sizes and colors between one species and another. Currant was also known by the Greeks and Latins. It is mentioned for the first time in Europe starting from the fifteenth century. The botanical name of the currant lends itself to different interpretations. According to some it derives from the Arabic and means "acid", while according to others it comes from the German term "Mьbsee", diminutive of "Meba", a very ancient term meaning 'enigma'.
The meaning of the currant is very particular and refers to its fruits. In fact, these mean: "You are my delight". The term is somewhat romantic and passionate and probably refers to ripe, sweet and pleasantly scented fruits, because the young ones have a more acid taste.