It’s time to get picking and freezing

Heavy crops of redcurrants have been gathered. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Heavy crops of redcurrants have been gathered. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Blackberries, assorted currants, raspberries and gooseberries have all ripened together, and there’s only one way to deal with that – get picking.

This has created a well-worn-route from bushes, to kitchen, to freezer. I love the way they hold their flavour in a frozen state and offer instant treats on demand throughout winter.

Three plants of Loch Ness cultivated bramble offer more than enough fruit for this household. They’re thornless and easily handled, offering large, decorative flowers as a precursor to giant berries.

These plants are easily propagated by layering, i.e. pegging down the tips to soil level, which encourages them to root naturally. Our garden-grown crop generally ripens weeks ahead of those in the surrounding countryside, but not this year.

Heavy crops of red and blackcurrants, along with gooseberries, have been gathered and frozen, with jams, jellies and desserts in mind. Seeing a garden trug filled with them is so satisfying, but there’s still work to be done.

Gooseberries are topped and tailed, currants separated from their strigs.

I prefer to leave the pruning of gooseberry and redcurrant bushes until winter when all leaves have gone and there’s a clear view of what needs removing, but blackcurrants benefit from attention straight after harvesting.

The idea is to remove as much as possible of the old wood that has just borne fruit, encouraging young growths to flourish. Follow each main branch from the tip down to the junction with a new stem, and snip.

Some gardeners combine blackcurrant picking with pruning; removing entire branches with fruit strigs attached.

Phenomenal best describes the raspberry harvest from a bed of 10 square metres. There are five different varieties, covering early, mid-season and late, so picking extends from July to November.

Malling Jewel, Glen Ample, Tullameen, Joan J and All Gold are proving to be very reliable.

As soon as the early canes cease production they are removed entirely to encourage newcomers already in place for next year. Those that crop in autumn will have every cane pruned to ground level when winter arrives.