Closeup of Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) berries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I've decided to stick with berries for another day - in honor of my berry monsters. Today I'm going to share about a berry that we love to find growing in the wild - currants!
As hot and dry as the Dakota prairies can be during summer, the adjacent Black Hills are cool and surprisingly moist. Many of our family hikes take us along creeks in the Hills, which also happens to be the habitat in which currants grow best.
Currants are next to impossible to find fresh commercially, and for many years they were outlawed from home gardens due to their role in the spread of white pine blister rust. The ban on growing currants was lifted in 1966, but it's still pretty rare to find home gardeners cultivating this delicious berry.
Currant bushes are fairly tolerant in terms of cultivation, but they must have moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil or they won't thrive and certainly won't set fruit. They prefer full sun, but will tolerate some shade provided that they're not grown in a chilly depression of land.
Black currants, like other dark berries, are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Red, white and even pink currant bushes are also available but these tend to be more decorative. Don't get me wrong, these bushes also produce healthy berries, but if you want the biggest health benefits, grow black currants.
In the past, currants enjoyed widespread use in jams, jellies, wines and cordials. Our family's favorite way to eat currants (other than right off the bush during a hike) is dried and added to warm or cold cereals. Dried currants can also be added to baked goods or boiled with apples and other berries for a delicious winter fruit compote.
We're not sure yet if we're going to try to grow currants at Rainbow's Acre. The property is pretty dry and lacking in moist places (unless we create some with swales) plus we are able to gather what our family needs from the wild. It may be something that we consider in the future though.
What about you? Are you interested in growing currant bushes?