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Redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) Identification Guide

Redcurrant / Summer / Edible

Redcurrant is an easy to identify member of the Gooseberry family with edible fruits.

Common Names

Redcurrant, Red currant


Botanical Name

Ribes rubrum


Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Saxifragales

Family – Grossulariaceae


Physical Characteristics for Redcurrant

Leaves

The leaves are palmate, with 3-5 lobes and they are bluntly toothed. They grow spirally around the woody stems.

Wouter Hagens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Flowers

The flowers are quite unremarkable, they are small, yellow to green in colour and grow on hanging racemes. The plant normally flowers between April and May.


Fruit

The flowers develop into bright red, translucent berries. Up to 20 berries grow on each racemes causing them to droop down. Individually the berries are about 10mm in diameter and they have vertical lines running down them at bit like the lines of longitude on a globe. The berries normally appear from July to August.

AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Habitat

Redcurrant is a non-native species but it does appear often as a garden escapee, most often we find them in woodland clearing, hedgerows and river banks where they have naturalised.


Known Hazards

None Known


Could be Confused with…

They could be confused with other Ribes species for example Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) which looks very similar when the fruits aren’t present. The main difference is the scent of the leaves, when crushed Blackcurrant leaves smells like Blackcurrants or Ribena whereas Redcurrant leaves smell ‘green’ or herbal.

The Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) could also look similar, typically Guelder Rose is a larger plant, its berries grow in bunches rather than on racemes. Guelder Rose berries are edible but they need to be cooked first.


Edible Uses

The berries are famed in the UK for Redcurrant jelly typically served with lamb or game. But their tart flavour works well in jams, jellies and syrups.

In Scandinavia they are used to make fruit soups and summer puddings.

In Austria they are added to ‘Linzer torte’ a traditional tart served at Christmas and in Russia they are made into Kissell a sweet, healthy drink.


Notes on Herbal Uses

Redcurrants are a great source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and manganese. These protect the body from the effects of oxidative stress and may help strengthen the immune system and ward off diseases.

They have a long history of use in herbal medicine for example tea made from dried leaves is said to ease the symptoms of gout and rheumatism, be useful in compresses for wounds, and as a gargling solution for mouth infections.

They have been proven to be effective in treating certain skin ailments including eczema and acne. Redcurrants also helps purify blood and enhance the texture of the skin and they are including in many commercial face creams and masks as they firm up tired skin.


Extra notes from the Foragers

Redcurrant have been used a lot in the past in the textile industry, a yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and a black dye from the berries.


References:

what’s paul kirtley saying on them

more on the health benefits

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