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Northern red currants are in the Grossulariaceae family which consist of many species of both currants and gooseberries. Currants are distinguished by their lack of spines, prickles, or thorns on the stems, which all gooseberries have to some degree. Also, red currants have clusters of minimum six flowers, where gooseberries have clusters of only 1 to 4 flowers. In addition to being a wild deciduous shrub, red currants are also commonly cultivated. Northern red currants are native to North America and are also found in northeast Asia.
Stems are erect to ascending. As the shrub ages, stems become brownish to gray and lack spines or prickles.
New twig growth is green, with a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs. It becomes smooth and dark reddish with white lenticels.
Ribes triste typically reaches heights up to 1 metre (3’).
Northern red currant shrubs have leaves with three to five shallow lobes with bluntly toothed edges and palmate veins. The leaves are alternate and are usually wider than they are long. They measure on average 8cm (3”) wide and 6cm (2”) long. Leaf undersides are pubescent, without yellow resinous dots.
The flowers are in bloom anytime from late April to June depending on geographic location. Flowers grow in drooping racemes, and there can be just over 12 flowers in a raceme. Flowers are saucer-shaped and greenish-red to pinkish-red in colour. Flowers are very small, about 6 mm in diametre. Flower peduncles have glandular hairs. It takes three to five years before this shrub will produce fruit.
The northern red currant berries are round to egg-shaped. They are shiny and vibrant red when ripe. They typically are small, measuring 1cm or less.
Northern red currants tend to thrive in moist soils in part shade although it will grow in sunny locations. They can be found near sources of water and the edges of moist forests.
Ripe fruit can be eaten raw or cooked despite having several seeds in each fruit. They have a pleasant, yet somewhat acidic flavour. The fruit is packed with antioxidants and are a great source of iron, as well as vitamins C and K.
Swamp Red Currant.
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