The currants grown for their fruit in America are derived mainly from two species, namely, the European red currant, Ribes vulgare (R. rubrum) (Fig. 1151), and the European black currant, R. nigrum (Fig. 1152). There are two promising American species, of which few, if any, improved varieties have been introduced, the swamp red currant (R. triste) and the wild black currant (R. americanum). Another American species of which at least one named variety has been offered for sale is the Buffalo or Missouri currant (R. aureum) (Fig. 1154), also grown because of its ornamental flowers. The currant is not known to have been under cultivation before the middle of the sixteenth century. It is not mentioned by any of the ancient writers who wrote about fruit, and was evidently not known to the Romans.

The Fay currant, one of the large red varieties.

Plate XXXII. The Fay currant, one of the large red varieties.

Currants are natives of comparatively cold or very cold climates; hence most varieties succeed over a very wide area in America. They are among the hardiest of fruits from the standpoint of resistance to cold or changes of temperature, but in hot and dry sections they do not thrive, and, on this account, are unsatisfactory in parts of the southern states.

Buffalo currant. R. aureum ( X 1/2)

Fig. 1154. Buffalo currant. R. aureum ( X 1/2)

The currant is not so generally used in America as some other fruits, as few persons care for them when eaten raw, and when cooked they are usually made into jelly and consumed by only a comparatively small proportion of the people. In the coldest parts where other fruits do not succeed well, the currant is more popular, and is used much more generally. It is a wholesome and refreshing fruit and deserves much more attention than it receives at the present time.

The currant does not vary so much when grown from seed as most cultivated fruits, and, being so easily propagated from cuttings, it has not been improved so much as it otherwise would have been. Moreover, size in currants was not of great importance until recent years, when competition in marketing has become keener. It is only during the past fifty or sixty years that many new varieties have been introduced. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, few named sorts were recognized, the currant being generally known simply under the names black, red and white.

Curcuma petiolata in flower. (X 1/6 )

Fig. 1150. Curcuma petiolata in flower. (X 1/6 )