There are tons of currants ripening around Boulder right now. You may have some competition for them, but in my experience, it isn’t too bad. Currants are certainly not the most widely recognized fruit, and even when its edibility is recognized, it seems that the average currant-eater is unwilling to stray from the trail. The bushes are often picked pretty clean in areas where they can be reached from the trail, but any off the trail and even the backsides of the bushes on the trail hold many ripe berries.
There are a number of species of currant in Colorado, but thankfully all of them are edible. If you can recognize the ribes leaf and the distinctive fruit of the Ribes genus, you are in business. They do vary quite a bit in flavor, but I’m sure a mixed-currant pie would be delightful.
Golden currants (Ribes aureum), which are everywhere in Boulder right now, are pictured below. As you can tell, the golden currant is not named for the color of its fruit, but rather the color of its flower.
Ribes leaves vary in shape, but they are all somewhat similar. They come in two forms: either deeply lobed like the golden currant or fan-shaped and shallow lobed like wax currant. When you have spent enough time looking at known Ribes species, you will see a leaf from an unknown species and say, “I don’t know the plant, but it sure looks like a RIbes.”
The second distinction is the fruits. Ribes plants have long, thin flowers, and when the fruits form, they still show the dried remnants of those flowers opposite the stem. They pull off easily, but are time consuming to remove, so I usually eat them.
That should be all you need to start finding currants. Look up a few more photos and a few of the local species and get out there. They’re worth the effort!
And here’s what you can do with them, a simple recipe for black currant pie. It’d also likely work for huckleberries, blueberries, or anything similar.
Disclaimer: there are some reports that eating too many wax currants can result in a sore throat or nausea, so probably don’t make your entire pie out of those. And, as always, make sure you are 100% certain of a plant and its edibility before you put it in your mouth.
1 frozen pie shell
~4 cups currants
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup corn starch
Juice from ¼ lemon
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Mix currants, sugar, spices, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl until well combined. Pour into pie shell and put in oven preheated to 400 degrees. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and cover the pie loosely with foil. You want steam to be able to escape, but the foil is needed to keep the crust from over-browning. If you’re feeling fancy, you can cover only the crust with foil shields.
Bake at 350 for around 45 minutes more, until the filling bubbles at the edges and in the center.
When it is bubbling all over, remove from the oven and allow to cool and set for 2 hours before eating.
Definitely serve with ice cream, and whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.