Insights into Blackcurrants

Growing Blackcurrants in New Zealand

Don and Di McFarlane have been blackcurrant growers for decades. While semi-retired Don is still very much involved with blackcurrant research and development in New Zealand.

We asked Don to share with us insights into the Blackcurrant industry in New Zealand.

World Acclaimed

There are 37 growers in New Zealand, who pay a levy on their harvested tonnage to BCNZ the Industry body. These funds are invested in research to improve yields and production systems, breed improved varieties with higher levels of antioxidants and to better understand the health benefits from consuming NZ Blackcurrants. New Zealand has a strong place in the global blackcurrant scene due to its high quality fruit and being such a compact, well researched industry. It also has acclaims for its development in new blackcurrant varieties and work towards virtually chemical-free growing strategies.

Known as a super-fruit, blackcurrants have many benefits. Continued research is being undertaken to establish its antioxidant qualities, contribution to athlete muscle recovery, the combat of urinary infections, dementia, asthma and eye sight deterioration. In New Zealand a grower-owned NZ Blackcurrant Co-operative is responsible for promoting the benefits of NZ blackcurrants and marketing much of the crop.

Geraldine, as with much of South Canterbury with its cool, crisp winters, is the perfect natural environment growing blackcurrants.

More research is shared in our Health & Wellbeing category.

Varieties

There are a number of blackcurrant varieties grown in New Zealand, each having different characteristics. Some are naturally sweet, some flower earlier, some have intensive flavours and some are prolific croppers. These variations are essential to enable year round supply of blackcurrants to the world market and to Barker’s!

The main varieties grown in NZ are; Magnus, Ben Rua, Ben Ard, Blackadder, Melina and Murchison.

Blackcurrant blossom Don McFarlane talks blackcurrants

photo: Don McFarlane talks blackcurrants

Insights

The life of a blackcurrant grower is a busy one. Harvest traditionally starts on Boxing Day and extends throughout January as the different varieties ripen. During the rest of the year, growers prune, maintain the weeds and tend to their nursery.

The life a blackcurrant plant can span 12-15 years before they are trimmed literally back to the ground level to encourage new fresh growth. It’s all part of the renewal process. Like many fruit crops, blackcurrants fruit on last year’s new wood.

Blackcurrant bushes experience a tremendous growth spurt between November-December. Over a growing season, growers can expect 12-18 inches of new wood which becomes next year’s fruit production.

Often growers will graze sheep to keep the weeds down that compete for nutrients. This works well in winter and autumn months when there are no flowers to tempt them.

Sheep grazing in the blackcurrant rows Don McFarlane with Mark Weare, Barker’s Procurement Manager

photo: Don McFarlane with Mark Weare, Barker’s Procurement Manager

We asked Don to share his favourite blackcurrant recipe. His piece de resistance is Blackcurrant Pie – simply whole blackcurrants with apple, honey or sugar, in a shortcake pastry. It never ceases to impress. The sharpness of the fruit is very intense and people love the contrast. Thanks Don!

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