Who’d have thought keeping a blog would come in *useful* one day? But lo, back in 2008 I observed that my ribes magellanicum seeds had germinated after more than a year. They grew very slowly, and became unloved and just a couple have survived. One of these has been planted out alongside its cousins, the blackcurrants, and this year it has finally flowered.
The flowers are pretty, yellow, and hang in a typical blackcurrant dangly-earring kind of effect. They don’t have any noticeable scent (at least, mine don’t, on the day I last sniffed ’em) and the leaves have a faint blackcurranty smell when squashed. It is a nice healthy looking plant – the leaves are a little deeper green, smaller, finer and shinier than the neighbouring blackcurrants.
I hope the flowers will produce at least a couple of currants for us to try this year – one site I found describes the flavour as “exquisite”, although I think you could say that about a ripe blackcurrant myself so it may prove to be a matter of taste. Even if our crop is successful, it won’t be too prolific this year and that could prove fortunate – in Chile: The Bradt Travel Guide it is described as “an effective laxative” if eaten in large quantities…again, I expect most fruits eaten in large quantities can be relied on for this, erm, quality.
My geography isn’t great; I understood it to originate in Chile, but I find references to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, which is good because I love saying Tierra del Fuego. Anyway – definitely the pointy bit of South America, Chile and Argentina way, and therefore apparently happy with quite harsh conditions although possibly expecting a bit more moisture than I can guarantee. It has made it through a UK winter that went below -10c, though. I can’t find a common name – variations include Magellanic or Magellan currant, uvilla (little grape, in Spanish, apparently) parrilla (little grape vine?) or just wild currant.
I haven’t found a lot of information about this plant but some links are below. Have you grown, eaten or seen ribes magellanicum? I would welcome comments…
– a comment here suggests it’s actually quite tasty
– some nice photos on this site
http://www.omora.org/english/welcome.htm – Omora Ethnobotanical Park has a short paragraph
NB coincidentally today I read an excellent post by Oxonian Gardener on the reasons why people grow oddities..like weird South American currants of uncertain value when they have perfectly serviceable, indeed delicious, blackcurrants, for example… I can assure you my intentions are mostly pure as I’m in no state to be snobbish about my growing skills! It’s very entertaining and you can read it here: http://oxoniangardener.co.uk/fruit-snobbery-4049