Wild currants grow almost everywhere in North America. The currant is a close relative of the gooseberry and certain varieties greatly resemble each other in the wild. The wild currant is a shrub that grows anywhere from two to five feet tall, although the golden currant, which is distributed widely throughout the western and eastern United States, hangs from trees up to 10 feet tall, and varieties found at higher elevations creep closer to the ground. Pick currants in the early fall, in August and September.
Look for "maplelike" leaves. Elizabeth S. O'Neill, of "Mother Earth News," explains that the leaves of the currant shrub resemble those of the maple tree and have scalloped edges. O'Neill explains that the leaves' veins fan out from the stalk "like fingers on a hand."
Look for bright yellow flowers. The blooms may be bell-shaped or shaped like a saucer.
Rub the leaves or break a twig and see if the plant exudes a skunk-like odor; if it does, it is definitely a currant. (However, not all currants have this odor.)
Discern them by their lack of spikes. Few varieties of currant are spiked but some may have soft hairs.
Look for a glove-shaped fruit, about one-quarter-inch in diameter, with a color ranging from red to black. Currants generally grow in clusters of five or more on a fairly long stalk.
If you misidentify currants, you will probably end up with the equally delicious and versatile gooseberry.
Tips and warnings
- If you misidentify currants, you will probably end up with the equally delicious and versatile gooseberry.