Currant-Tree, or Ribes, L.
is an indigenous plant, comprising 6 or 7 species, of which the following are the principal:
1. The Rubrum, or common Red Currant, which is found in woods in the northern counties. It bears greenish white flowers, which blow in the month of May, and are succeeded by red berries. Its leaves are eaten by cows, goats, and sheep, but with reluctance by horses. - This plant is very liable to be infested by a species of plant-louse, the Aphis riles, the depredations of which change the fine green colour of the leaves, that become red, pitted, and shrivelled. The best method of exterminating these vermin is, by smoking the bushes with half-burnt wood, or sprinkling them early with decoctions of tobacco, or solutions of lime and pot-ash, or simple soap-water.
2 The Alpinum, or Sweet Mountain Currant, which grows wild chiefly in the county of York, and flowers in the month of May. Its fruit has a flat sweetish taste, and is only relished by children. The wood is so hard and tough, that it makes strong teeth for rakes; the leaves are eaten by sheep, goats, and horses.
3. The Nigrum, or Black Currant, which has woolly flowers that blow in the month of May. - Its leaves are eaten by goats and horses.
The different species of currants will thrive on almost any soil; but their fruit is more savoury, when produced in a dry and open ground. They are very easily propagated, by planting slips, or cuttings, at any time from September to March, upon fresh earth, which should be carefully cleared from all weeds during the spring; and, in dry weather, the young plants ought to be frequently watered. After standing about two years, they will be fit to be removed to those places where they are intended to remain; an operation which should be performed when the leaves are just decayed, so that the plants may have time to strike root before the winter-frosts. If they are designed for standards, they should be planted in rows- 8 or 10 feet apart, and the trees in each row 4 feet distant from each other; but the more eligible way is to train them in espaliers, where they take up less room, and their fruit acquires a finer flavour. In this state, they should be placed from 6 to 8 feet apart, and all their branches trained horizontally: the same distance is also to be allowed them, when set Against walls or pales.
The fruit of the red and white currants is greatly esteemed for the table, They are nutritive, but should not be too frequently nor abundantly eaten, as they tend to produce flatulency, in persons of relaxed habits and a sedentary life: hence they ought to be consumed together with other food, in which case they are emollient, gently laxative, and, in some instances, anodyne. In fevers, the juice of currants, when mixed with an-equal quantity of sugar, and made into a jelly, is cooling and grateful to the stomach ; being in a slight degree astringent and antiseptic.
Currant-Wine is an excellent drink during the heat or" summer, especially with the addition of water. Different receipts have been given for making this pleasant beverage. We select the following: Gather the currants when they are fully ripe ; break them into a tub, or vat; then press and measure the juice, to which add two-thirds of water, and to each gallon of that mixture put 3lbs. of soft sugar; agitate the whole properly till the sugar is dissolved, when it may be barrelled. The juice should not be left to stand during the night, as the fermentation ought not to take place, till all the ingredients are compounded.
Black Currants have a peculiar flavour, which many persons dislike : they are, however, reputed to be very wholesome, and their juice is frequently boi.ed down into an extract or syrup, with the addition of a small quantity of sugar ; in which state it is called rob, and much esteemed in sore-throats and quinsies. Some persons put black currants into brandy, for the same purpose as others do cherries ; compositions that are less adapted to the benefit of health, than to stimulate the corrupted palate of dram-drinkers. An infusion of the young roots of the former, is said to be useful in eruptive fevers of the human species ; and in those dysenteric distempers with which cattle are sometimes affected.