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Belonging to the gooseberry family, red currants are easy to grow

A delightful alternative to the typical shrub is the red currant bush.

PHOTO COURTESY: DREAMSTIME - Currants provide wonderful red berries when they ripen.If you are looking for something a little more unusual, these hardy plants are the ticket. Currants come in red, black and white varieties. Today's focus is the red.

Years ago I saw a currant bush for the first time. The Molt brothers had small farms in Milwaukie, off of Webster Road. PHOTO BY: VAL CLARKE - Even when its berries are immature, the currant bush is an attractive addition to any garden. Willy had a huge field of concord grapes and raspberries. As children, we picked strawberries and raspberries for the brothers, earning 50 cents a flat. Fred had currants. To this day I remember my bewilderment. What are these? They looked like jewels in the sun.

Easy to care for, red currants boast vibrant translucent berries. Currants are gorgeous additions to path borders, flower beds and landscapes. They are disease-resistant.

Bright red berries cascade down in beautiful clusters much like grapes. This plant is deciduous and has bright ruffled green leaves that fall off during autumn.

Belonging to the gooseberry family, red currants are easy to grow. Originally from western Europe, the plant is short when full grown and about the same size as a small blueberry bush.

Berries are small, pea-sized and tart. In fact, they are so very tart that wild birds tend to leave them alone. All the better for us humans: more for us!

If you're wondering what you can do with fresh currants, there is an abundance of recipes. Most popular is currant jelly. Red currants naturally have a high level of pectin, so jelly or jam making is easy. Wonderful sweet and savory dishes include currant sauces for pork, lamb and poultry. They can be added to cakes, breads or muffins. Try sprigs of rosemary and currants over roasted vegetables with pork. Refreshing, tart sorbet desserts are flavorful treats. Include currants next time you make a fruit tart. You can even add them to beverages. I've frozen them on the vine in freezer bags and added them to meals throughout the winter.

Red currants have amazing health benefits. They are packed with vitamins and are rich in antioxidants.

Currant bushes grow approximately four feet high by three feet wide. They do best in full sun, and the berries ripen in mid July.

Even if you never use currants for culinary uses, they will add color to your garden. Consider the red currant bush.

Val "Rose" Clarke is a fifth-generation descendant of Clackamas farm people. She is employed by Pamplin Media Group as a graphic artist and photo-color specialist for the Clackamas Review.

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