The Kritzendorfer variety of red currant has big, cherry red colored, round, aromatic berries, which taste sour even when ripe. The fruits are 6-7 cm long, with 12 to 13 densely bunched berries. They grow on an upright plant with narrow leaves and light yellow flowers. The variety originates from Kritzendorf, just northwest of Vienna, in northeastern Austria. Some 100 years ago the cultivation of red currant experienced a period of prosperity in the area west of Vienna. When the grape pest phylloxera destroyed the vineyards, many farmers were forced to change to red currant cultivation. The fresh berries were sold or fermented to make a sweet drink. The Kritzendorfer ribisel variety originated around 1850 when court counselor J. Schmiedt planted his first red currant bush – said to be imported from Italy – in his garden. It differed considerably from the small-fruited Weisstieler variety cultivated at this time. The foreign red currant developed quickly into a variety of great demand. Throughout the following years, Schmiedt provided all his neighbors with cuttings from the plant. Around 1860, up to 3 hectares of the variety were planted, and the nursery garden of the of the newly founded Education and Research Center for Viniculture and Fruit Growing in Klosterneuburg began reproduction of the Kritzendorfer ribisel. The cultivation of red currant bushes in the area at one point covered an area of about 25 hectares, with the Kritzendorfer ribisel representing the main variety. Today, though, you will find this plant only in a few private or nursery gardens. At the moment, only one elderly producer grows the fruit in small quantities. Therefore, products like fruit juices, wines and jams of this variety are not available, and were last seen on the market in 2010.
Image: Slow Food Archive