Currant Affairs

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I didn’t think we would ever beat last year’s soft fruit harvest but we have. The Redcurrants in particular have been truly prolific and we decided to take the covers off today and strip the bush of it’s delicious fruit before the inevitable blackbird and pigeon invasion. We only have one large bush but with careful pruning to maximise fruit production we get enough fruit for several pots of jam, jelly, sauce, pies and crumbles and still have loads left over for freezing. 020

This year we got 14 lbs (6.35 kgs) off this single bush which we find simply amazing! When they are picked over and rinsed they will be frozen on flat trays which helps to separate the currants from the sprigs.032

Truly scrumptious!

Turn up the heat – the response!

Had a lovely reply from DT Brown today, it went as follows:

Dear Mr Simpson,                                                                                                                 I’m down on my knees, how silly of us, 200 degrees!                                                         Was it the printer or was it just missed                                                                                   It could be the designer who had a slight lisp.                                                                       Your email has given us all a big laugh and therefore I  say on all our behalf               However it happened we really are sorry                                                                             And am sending a packet that will cost you no lolly.

Regards                                                                                                                              Deb Nicholls

It just goes to show that even in big business there is a place for humour and time to have a laugh!

Thanks Deb. You made my day!

Another Fruitful Day

One of the many joys of gardening for me is picking our own soft fruit. We have strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries and autumn raspberries. Also, and new for this year, three blackberry bushes including ‘Bedford Giant’ which has put on 12 feet of growth in it’s first year! I have just tied in the thorny canes to a frame I made and have the scars to prove it! Judging from the little buds sitting in every leaf axil, there should be a bumper crop next year. 

Sadly, due to the cold wet weather in April and May, the apple blossom was not pollinated by bees and other insects and so we had just two apples this year off our little tree compared to our usual haul of at least 20 kilos plus the windfalls.

However, the stars of the show at the moment are the autumn raspberries. I started with just 12 bare roots of Autumn raspberry ‘Brice’ two years ago which I planted 600mm apart in a single row but now it is a ‘patch’ 8m long and 1.2m wide in which there must be at least 100 canes all cropping prolifically right now! This year I followed advice from the RHS and sprayed with Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts) because the leaves were yellowing and streaky due to a local deficiency of Magnesium. The fruits are a dark red and taste divine.

At the peak of fruit production, usually weeks 3 to 6 in the cycle, we pick approx 2 kilos every other day and slightly less in the 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after. In total, fruit picking usually goes on for about 9 weeks from late August until the leaves eventually turn yellow and the fruits begin to lose their taste and then stop ripening at the end of October. Cropping started a bit later this year due to the lack of sunshine and warmth but they are certainly making up for it now.

Autumn Raspberry ‘Brice’

There are far too many for the two of us to eat but we have found they actually taste even better after they have been frozen and so most of them end up in our spare freezer in the garage. We have found the best method is to firstly immerse them in a bowl of cold water; this is not to wash them but any insects and grubs will float to the surface and can be easily removed. The water possibly reduces the flavour slightly but, unfortunately, the Raspberry Beetle lays it’s eggs on the flowers enabling the subsequent tiny caterpillar-like larvae to feed off the fruit. We are not totally organic, I just don’t use chemical insect sprays so we put up with it and deal with any we find. They are probably harmless but we don’t like the idea of eating them!

After freezing

Then comes the fiddly bit. After an hour or so, we drain them and leave them to dry upturned on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper. After another hour or so, we place them on plastic trays and  freeze them flat in the top compartment of the freezer overnight. That way they don’t stick together.

Before vacuum sealing

They are then either popped into freezer bags, zip-lock bags or we use our new toy, a vacuum sealer, which removes all the air. They store better and take up less room but don’t try to vacuum seal fresh fruit, you will just end up with mush!

Vacuum sealed

The other advantage of freezing is that you can bag them up in just the right quantities so they should last even longer. They will keep for several months in the freezer and there is nothing quite like the taste of your own raspberries at Christmas or in the depths of a cold winter. In my opinion, freezing them seems to intensify the flavour as well. When they are defrosted, they are slightly softer but usually keep their shape well. And if not, there is always raspberry coulis!