The name currant is used to refer to two distinctly different fruits, one fresh, one dried.

The dried one is a small dark seedless raisin from the Zante grape, often used in baking. You may have had them in Eccles cakes.

The fresh one is a wee tart black, white, or red berry which is related to the gooseberry. The black ones are used for preserves, syrups and liqueurs (notably cassis), as well as lambic beer). The red or white ones can be eaten as is or used for pies, preserves, or sauces. Currant bushes grow throughout Europe and North America, and First Nations people used dried currants (from the berries, not the grapes) to make pemmican.

A blister rust has infected many currant bushes in North America; it's incurable, and when it's found, the plants are destroyed. This is causing the disappearance of native currants from some areas of the continent.

The word Currant also refers to the plant which bears the fruits Anthropod mentioned. Currants are found in the genus Ribes, along with gooseberries (the prominent difference being that gooseberries bear thorns and currants do not). Currants are found in many temperate areas of the world, including Europe and North America. My native region of California has several.

One of the distinguishing charactaristics of the currants in California is that they sometimes bloom in the early fall, before the rains. Everything else on the hillside will be dead or dormant, and the currants will be covered in pink or white flowers. This plant takes a big gamble that fall rains will come, because if they don't, and the plant invests all its energy and water on flowering, it could die. But the rewards are also great: this is a desperately bleak time for pollinators, and this plant will be visited by any hummingbird or bee in the area when it first flowers. For this reason, it also is vitally important to these animals that currants are found in the area.

Currants, in California, are found in wet areas such as north-facing hillsides or riparian valleys. In addition to providing nectar to pollenators in the fall, they also produce the succulent red berries noted in Anthropod's node, which are an important food source to many animals, including some humans.

Currants have a thin, irregular form, but are quite beautiful when covered in flowers or berries; for this reason they would probably make a good landscape plant. They would do well in an area that gets a small amount of extra water, but is not irrigated excessively in summer. Keep in mind, however, that this genus has been known to carry the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, so it is probably not a good idea to move plants around from one oak forest to another.

Cur"rant (k?r"rant), n. [F. corinthe (raisins de Corinthe raisins of Corinth) currant (in sense 1), from the city of Corinth in Greece, whence, probably, the small dried grape (1) was first imported, the Ribes fruit (2) receiving the name from its resemblance to that grape.]

1.

A small kind of seedless raisin, imported from the Levant, chiefly from Zante and Cephalonia; -- used in cookery.

2.

The acid fruit or berry of the Ribes rubrum or common red currant, or of its variety, the white currant.

3. Bot.

A shrub or bush of several species of the genus Ribes (a genus also including the gooseberry); esp., the Ribes rubrum.

Black currant,a shrub or bush (Ribes nigrum and R. floridum) and its black, strong-flavored, tonic fruit. -- Cherry currant, a variety of the red currant, having a strong, symmetrical bush and a very large berry. -- Currant borer Zool., the larva of an insect that bores into the pith and kills currant bushes; specif., the larvae of a small clearwing moth (Aegeria tipuliformis) and a longicorn beetle (Psenocerus supernotatus). -- Currant worm Zool., an insect larva which eats the leaves or fruit of the currant. The most injurious are the currant sawfly (Nematus ventricosus), introduced from Europe, and the spanworm (Eufitchia ribearia). The fruit worms are the larva of a fly (Epochra Canadensis), and a spanworm (Eupithecia). -- Flowering currant, Missouri currant, a species of Ribes (R. aureum), having showy yellow flowers.

 

© Webster 1913.

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