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BIG BEN BLACKCURRANT
Big Ben was bred by the Scottish Crop Research Institute and produces an early season crop. Ideal as a single bush or in conjunction with a late season variety such as Ben Tirran, useful if you want to harvest blackcurrants over a long period. Key features are:
- Crops early in the season
- Huge berries
- Can be eaten straight from the bush
The parents of Big Ben are a complicated mix of four rarer varieties of blackcurrant bushes. This variety was first released in 2013 making it the most recent of the "Ben" series of blackcurrants.
APPEARANCE, TASTE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF BIG BEN
Big Ben Blackcurrants
This variety is a very recent introduction and is unlikely to ever be seen in your supermarket because it has been bred exclusively for the Pick Your Own and home garden market. The berries have an average weight of about 2.3g which compares well to the average of 1.1g. At the same time the berries are very sweet with an average Brix rating of 13. This makes Big Ben one of the very best for eating fresh from the bush, better even than Ebony. The berries have good depth of flavour when cooked making this an excellent dual purpose fruit.
Plants grow to a height and spread of 1.6m (5ft) with an upright growth form. The plants begin to crop quickly and reach their full cropping potential after only three years although year two will also produce a very decent-sized crop. Expect the plants to crop well for 10 to 12 years. Disease resistance is good especially to mildew and leaf spot.
As with all blackcurrants, Big Ben is self-fertile and will produce good a crop if grown alone.
BUYING BIG BEN BLACKCURRANT BUSHES
This is a reasonably common variety and can often be found in UK garden centres and almost always in a good number of online fruit specialists. Bare-rooted plants, available from November to early March, are the cheapest way to buy any blackcurrant bush. The cheapest reliable supplier we could find was Crocus, click here to go to their page. Expect to pay anywhere between £6.00 to £12.00 depending on the supplier.
Blackcurrant bushes are particularly prone to viral infections and for this reason we would avoid buying them from online general retailers such as as Amazon or E-bay unless you know exactly who is supplying them. Cuttings donated by friends are of course free but we always ask to see the parent plant to check that it is free from disease.
Buying blackcurrant bushes from the discount stores can be a good deal but it can also result in a sub-standard crop. The discount stores take the second quality plants whereas the more conventional suppliers take the best quality. Unfortunately you will only find this out after you have carefully tended your crop for two years when they fail to crop well.
We have four pages devoted entirely to planting, care, harvest, pest / disease and propagating blackcurrants which can be found here.
SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF BIG BEN
USE: Eating fresh and cooking
SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Deep purple / black
TASTE AND TEXTURE: Rich blackcurrant flavour, berries cook down well
FRUIT SIZE: Average weight 2.3g, the largest currently sold in the UK
PLANT SIZE: Average for a blackcurrant bush
REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Very regular
AWARDS: AGM in 2012
SPECIAL FEATURES: The taste, for eating fresh, is quite simply the best and it also cooks well. Very large berries.