This is a genus of well-known shrubs, much cultivated for their fruit. It is a native of the Northern parts of
Europe, and found in hedges and woods in England; and there are some species indigenous in America. The fruit, being of an agreeable sub-acid taste, is generally relished both as a dessert and in pies and tarts; it is also much used in making wine, and is grown to a considerable extent for that purpose in Essex, Kent, and about Pershore, in Worcestershire, England. There are ten species cultivated in the garden of the Horticultural Society of London, comprising twelve varieties of red, ten of white, five kinds of black, together with a champagne, mountain, rock, upright, Penn-sylvanian, etc. Any number of varieties of the red and white may be procured from sowing the seed, but they are generally propagated by cuttings of the last year's wood, which should be of sufficient length to form handsome plants, with a clear stem ten inches high; these may be planted immediately upon losing their leaves in autumn, or very early the ensuing spring.
The Currant will grow in almost every soil, but prospers best in one loamy and rich. The best flavoured fruit is produced from plants in an open situation, but they will grow under the shades of walls or trees, and either as low bushes, or trained as espaliers. They bear chiefly on spurs, and on young wood of from one to three years' growth, and, therefore, in pruning, most of the young wood should be cut to within two or three buds of that where it originated. After the plants are furnished with full heads they produce many superfluous and irregular shoots every summer, crowding the general bearers, so as to require regulating and curtailing, both in the young growth of the year, and in older wood.
The principal part of the work may be done in winter, or early in spring; but a preparatory part should be performed in summer, to eradicate suckers, and thin the superfluous shoots of the year, where they are so crowded as to exclude the sun and air from the fruit. In training espaliers and for standards, two branches are laid in a horizontal direction along the bottom of the trellis, perhaps half a foot from the surface of the earth, and the growth from these, or of all upright shoots, which will admit of being arranged at the distance of five or six inches from each other, is encouraged. Fan standards are sometimes trained with the branches radiating from the crown of the stem.
The black Currant, or Ribes nigrum, is common in moist woods in Russia and Siberia; its culture is similar to that of the red, but as it is less apt to bear in spurs than on young wood, the shoots should not be so much shortened in this as in the other.
Currant bushes will require to be planted at different distances, according to the situation and mode of training, etc. When planted in beds, borders, or squares, they should be six feet apart, but if trained as espaliers, they will require to be eight feet apart.
Many people dislike the flavour of black Currants; they are, therefore, not much used in the kitchen or dessert, and seldom in wine making. They make a jelley or jam, in estimation as a gargle for inflammatory sore throats. " In Russia and Siberia, wine is made of the berries alone, or fermented with honey, and with or or without spirits. In Siberia they make a drink of the leaves; these tincture common spirits so as to resemble brandy, and a few of them dried and mixed with black tea, answer all the purposes of the green material." - (London.)