At the start of July we took a hard-earned break in the sun. Prior to our departure the red currants and black currants were just ripening up into what was promising to be a bumper harvest. With black membrane underneath the plants in the spring, they had not become overgrown with bind weed and nettles as in previous years and they were looking marvellous. Not that red currants are a crop that I have ever felt any great joy in harvesting. When we were young all I remember them really being used for was an occasional summer pudding and copious jars of currant jelly. The kitchen store cupboard became a currant jelly connoisseur’s dream destination.
“What? you still have a case of the vintage ’78?”
“Yes we do – It’s still spreading well and has a lighter body and better bouquet than the otherwise equally fine ’82, with top notes of raspberry and new-mown grass on the finish”.
Yes – my parents went in for their currants in a big way. So when we returned from holiday this year to discover that the birds had stripped every bush, I felt mixed emotions. I was primarily relieved that I would not have to pick them, but also slightly guilty that I had not netted them and just a little awkward about how I would break the news to the Old Man.
As it turned out he broached the subject himself by telling me that he thought the currants “must be ready for picking soon”.
“No need” I replied, “the birds have already done the job for us”. And what a job: there was not a single currant of any denomination left on any bush. Fortunately he did not seem too upset. I suspect his jelly and jam-making days are over and there is only so much room in the freezer for bags of currants.
But with another holiday looming (we teachers have to squeeze our foreign trips in when we can) I realise the raspberries are just coming to fruition and I definitely do not want the blackbirds having them. So I’ve erected the remains of last year’s wind-tossed gazebo with some new bird-proof netting so we might enjoy our raspberries properly. The blueberries in the meantime have been happily ripening in their netted tent pole rig.
But I won’t be making any jam any time soon.