Black Currant

Black Currant

Black Currant
Ribes nigrum

High in vitamins and antioxidants, black currants are one of the best berries for overall human health. Cold-hardy and shade tolerant, this crop matures relatively quickly and is suitable for machine harvest.

DRAINAGE: Moderate to well-drained
LIGHT: Full sun to partial shade
ZONES: 3–8 (although some varieties hardy to 2)
SPACING: 2–3 ft, 12–14 ft between rows
YEARS TO PARTIAL/FULL BEARING: 3–5
HARVEST SEASON: June-August

Opportunities

A good companion crop for mixed agroforestry systems because they are one of the few fruits that produce well in partial shade, including under larger trees like chestnuts. Black currants remain popular in Northern Europe, suggesting market development potential in North America. Ripe fruit keeps well on the bushes, allowing some flexibility in harvest. Can be eaten fresh, or sold for processed products: wine, ice cream, syrups, and juice. 

Challenges

Black currants do not do well where growing season temperatures are frequently over 90 degrees F. Growing black currants was once banned in the US because they were a host for White Pine Blister Rust, a threat to the white pine timber industry. Disease-resistant cultivars of black currants have since been developed, but markets have been slow to recover.

Management

Currants are self-fruitful, but larger and better crops will occur with cross-pollination. Powdery mildew is a problem, so be sure to plant the right cultivars in an area with good circulation. Pruning is required each year.

Our Research

Savanna Institute’s black currant breeders are making crosses with the most resistant, best performing cultivars in North America: the collection of McGinnis varieties from British Columbia. We will use the resulting progeny families to select for increased disease resistance, while maintaining large fruit size, appealing flavor, and growth habits that are able to be machine harvested.

Black currant field with tree tubes.
Publications
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Black Currants

Videos

How to Grow Black Currants in the Midwest

Have you ever considered growing black currants?

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Looking For Plants?

Canopy’s Nursery offers plant material in your region. Find chestnut, walnut, pecan, hazelnut, heartnut, persimmon, pawpaw, black currant, and elderberry for order in their online store. Not only does Canopy increase the availability of high-quality plant material in the region, it also donates part of its proceeds to Savanna Institute’s nonprofit research and education mission.

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