Black currants are a “super-berry,” says Dion Benson, who is growing them in west Assineau.

These berries are very popular in Europe, he adds, but not a lot of people in North America know about them. Benson mentions the high Vitamin C in the berries.

The United States of America National Library of Medicine (NLM) has an article called ‘The health benefits of blackcurrants.’

It says, “In addition to its anecdotal use in traditional herbal medicine, modern laboratories have demonstrated the potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of blackcurrant constituents on a myriad of disease states.”

The blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum L., Grossulariceae) is native to central Europe and northern Asia, says the NLM article.

Benson is growing a cultivated variety.

About five years ago, he planted 48 test plants in his garden. Last fall, he harvested six five gallon pails, which averaged about six pounds per plant. He collected the seeds from one pail.

In January, he started planting some of these in a greenhouse in his basement. He currently has about 10,000 plants.

“I’m growing them slow on purpose,” he says. “I want them to be short and stout to start.”

Benson plans to plant most of the plants. The soil is clay from the old lake bottom, which isn’t ideal. This holds moisture quite well, so is better for these plants than a sandy soil.

“They like a dark rich soil,” says Benson.

“I’ve had that field sitting out there doing nothing,” he adds. He’s tried various plants, but the currants did the best. They appear to be “hardy enough to handle that kind of soil.”

Benson plans to plant seedlings this spring.

The plants take four to five years to produce berries. If the plants grow well, he’ll rent or buy a berry harvester and start selling the berries.

“There’s such a high demand for them,” says Benson. “It’s fresh produce. You can make top dollar.”

Some wine makers in BC use black currants for flavor. Companies add them to frozen fruit mixes. They can also be dried.

Benson has some plants for sale for $5 per plant or 12 for $50. People interested in buying plants can call Benson at 587-936-1577.

Dion Benson with his black currant plants. These ones are five years old and last year each plant produced about six pounds of berries.
He plans to plant 10,000 plants this year and hopes to have a berry farm in four to five years, when the plants are mature.
Black currant plants growing in Benson’s basement. He started them in January and has been growing them slowly using a grow light.

by Pearl Lorentzen

May 10, 2023

This item copyrighted by / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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