In the cooler sections of the country the currant is one of the easiest and most satisfactory small fruits to grow. It is perfectly hardy, makes quick and early maturing growth, comes into bearing the second year after planting, and produces fruit unequaled by any temperate climate fruit for mak ing jelly. Some of the varieties are excellent for eating raw, when sprinkled with sugar. The green as well as the ripe fruit is also used for making pies. Combinations of currants with raspberries, blackberries, and other midsummer fruits are highly prized by housewives, who thus add to their pre-serves flavors differing from all of those that enter in the combinations.
No small fruit is of easier culture. It may be propagated by thrusting a branch in the ground in early spring and making the soil firm around it. The following year this branch should bear a few fruits. It is better, however, to buy well-rooted plants and set them out 4 or 5 feet apart each way and give clean cultivation. This is not the usual practice in home gardens.
Simply because the currant is so easy to grow, it is consequently neglected, allowed to be choked with weeds and to become the prey of the currant or gooseberry worm. No insect is more easily controlled than this, if taken in time. It begins operations as soon as the leaves start to form. The eggs are laid first near the base of the bush, and the insects eat the leaves there first. They usually are not suspected of being present until a large part of the foliage has been destroyed. Hellebore, either dusted or sprinkled on wet, is the common remedy for this insect. A little attention in the early spring will . save a much larger amount of attention later, and insure the crop.
The currant does well on almost any soil, but best on rather heavy land. Pruning consists in removing old wood after it has borne two or three crops. New shoots are constantly coming up from the base and one or two of the best of these should be allowed to grow each year. Preferably the old stems should be cut out at four years old, because the younger wood bears better. Liberal applications of stable manure or complete commercial fertilizers may be given. The soil should be kept cultivated and free from weeds, especially around the bases of the bushes. Work should begin as soon as the ground can be handled, Unlike most other fruits, the currant does well when partially shaded. It is, therefore, well adapted for the home garden.
There are three commercial classes of currants the red, white, and black. The former two all belong to one species ; the latter is distinct. For home use all three should be grown. The whites and reds are more or less alike in flavor, but the black is very distinct, and is not generally liked. It is used principally for making jam. The best known varieties of reds are Cherry, Fay, Red Cross, Red Dutch, Versailles, Victoria, and Wilder. The two most popular varieties are White Dutch and White Grape. Among the black varieties the best known are Black Naples, Champion, and Lee’s Prolific.
“During my experience with currants in the last 30 years, I have found Fay, La Versailles, Cherry, and Filler varieties best adapted to this section,” writes J. A. Hepworth of Ulster county, New York. ” My main crop consists of Filler, of which variety I have about 5o,000 bushes. Heavy clay loam seems an especially desirable soil for this crop. My bushes range in age from three to 15 years. I do not allow any dead wood to remain, but every year, preferably in the early spring or early fall, I trim this all out.
Fay is the first to ripen, Versailles next, and Filler last. I begin picking the last week of June or the first of July in quarts, paying 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cents a quart. Fruit is shipped in 32-quart crates to New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and sold on commission. Last season I received an average of about 7 cents a quart. I don’t sow any cover crop. Number one bushes are best for planting. These I raise myself. The cur-rant bushes are planted between my grape vines.”