currant, northern shrub of the family Saxifragaceae (saxifrage family), of the same genus (Ribes) as the gooseberry bush. The tart berries of the currant may be black, white, or red; the white gooseberry becomes purple when mature. Both, especially the larger European species, are eaten fresh and also used in preserves, sauces, and pies. Because the plants act as a host to blister rust, their cultivation in America is discouraged, and in regions of infection the wild species are eradicated. Native Americans used dried currants in making pemmican, but the “dried currant” of commerce is a small raisin. Indian currant is a name for a West Coast species and for the coralberry of the honeysuckle family. Native species of gooseberry are sometimes cultivated in gardens. Currant is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Saxifragaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants