There is an heirloom fruiting shrub that seems to be, as the saying goes, “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. It is never the one that people clamor for at the nursery, but plays a supporting role to raspberries and even gooseberries. If only people would stop searching for the most popular shrubs… this quiet beauty could become the star in their own backyard.
Ribes odoratum is commonly known as clove currant. This is a deciduous shrub (loses its leaves in the fall) that reaches a height of 4′ – 6′ and a similar width. It can be grown in partial shade to full sun (but fruits better in full sun) and prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate clay conditions. This tough shrub is also drought tolerant. It makes a nice border planting but can also naturalize.
Curious about where it can be grown? Here is great news; this plant does well in USDA hardiness zones 3b – 8b. This range spans from the southern United States to southern Canada… and even extending north along the Canadian western provinces.
Visually, this is an attractive plant. For starters, it gets our attention in spring with a profusion of lemon-yellow flowers. If you are standing near the plant or a breeze wafts by, you are treated to a delicious clove aroma. This spiciness is wonderful and truly unique in the world of fruiting shrubs. Personally, this is planted just off the edge of my patio purely for the fragrance. In the fall, the leaves range from yellow to burgundy.
Clove currant is prone to suckering. However this can be solved through pruning or you can dig up the sucker (leaving the roots attached) and then plant it elsewhere in your garden to create another plant.
As the season progresses, the flowers fade and are replaced by small green fruit and a very blue-green foliage. As the fruit grows, the arched branches begin to sag under the weight of the fruit. (Did I mention that is a prolific producer)? By mid-summer, the fruit begin to darken in color and when August rolls around, the fruit are nearly black in color with just hints of deep purple. Worth noting is that the fruit ripens unevenly. This means that there will several pickings before all fruit has been harvested over the course of several weeks. Ripe fruit will be black in color and have a very sweet flavor. (Forget what you know about other currants… this does not have a musky taste). To harvest, simply pluck fruit from the branch. NOTE: there will most likely be a small piece of stem at the top of the fruit.
Since the ripe fruit is sweet, it can be enjoyed eaten fresh. Though in our household, we prefer to enjoy it in different applications. Yes, it makes a wonderful jelly, sauce, or even pie, fruit leather, but hands down… it makes a lovely wine. The fruit can also be dehydrated and then used in homemade granola, trail mix, or even ‘energy’ bars.
For us, it is one of our favorite fruiting shrubs. And for anyone who has ever harvested from a fruiting shrub, there is a nice perk… it is thornless! This is a great change of pace from raspberries and gooseberries which means that you don’t have to don a long-sleeved shirt or gloves for harvesting.
If you are in the market for a fruiting shrub, look no further than clove currant. It is an attractive shrub with yellow flowers that emit a heady, clove aroma. It is a prolific producer of black, sweet fruit that can be enjoyed fresh or turned into a variety of items. This is one shrub that will always be in our garden and deserves a spot in yours.
Sue Dreamwalker says
Now this plant I had not come across before.. So was extra interested in reading.. Thank you 🙂
I hadn’t heard of it until I attended a workshop on heirloom fruit trees and shrubs many years ago. We have had it in our garden ever since. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Sue Dreamwalker says
That has made me feel better, 🙂 Yes I enjoy learning about new plants and this was a new one on me 🙂
I hope you can find one. They really are wonderful!
Walter Foster says
Have to look into this. Sounds idea for a select spot near the porch in our back yard.
The nurseries in our area carry them. They really are a nice addition to the garden.
kathy & deb says
I really like baking with it too–the berries are very sweet and full of flavor. I’ll have to dry some next year for cereal and granola.
We have almost finished drying the first batch. I think they will taste great in homemade granola. They are a great fruit, aren’t they?
I have a few black currant bushes but not this one. Even dead ripe black, the fruit is very sour and astringent. I would love to try this.
Clove currant is definitely unique in the world of currant shrubs. We definitely love the sweet fruit. Some days we toss the berries into pancakes and we have even make syrup with it. I hope you have luck finding it at your local nursery. (If you can’t find it locally, try online).
Wow! They must be sweet. I can’t imagine doing that with mine. I bet they’d be terrific dried. They are getting a lot of attention as the new “Superfood”. I will find those! Thank you for this great post
Yes, they are sweet. We have a batch in the dehydrator now that we intend to use in granola and homemade energy bars. I am go glad you enjoyed the post.
Margaret Smith says
My parents’ home had several of these. Didn’t know the fruits were edible, but always have loved the fragrant flowers. I wanted to transplant some to my current home, but my sister in law had dug them all up and thrown them away. Hope I can find some, somewhere. I miss them!
Check with your local nurseries or garden centers.