Golden Currant is a winter-hardy, drought-tolerant, multi-stemmed shrub with clusters of fragrant, edible yellow flowers in Spring, followed by juicy sweet-tart berries in Summer.
Flowers have a spicy-sweet fragrance like clove and vanilla and make a decorative addition to Spring salads. The berries are an excellent native food source by themselves and are also useful in recipes for their wonderful flavor sweetened into jams, jellies, pies, or even currant ice cream. Berries contain healthy antioxidants, anthocyanins, vitamins and minerals.
Golden Currant has been a prized Summer berry for Native American cultures throughout its wide range, often eaten fresh, dried, or made into pemmican. The plant was also used for dye and medicine.
Really an all-star native edible!
Golden Currant has been widely cultivated for its ornamental landscape value. It’s trumpet-shaped golden-yellow flowers, unique spicy-sweet fragrance, and petite stature make it a wonderful backyard companion. Even the elliptical berries, dangling in rows from outstretched, arching limbs, are ornamental - ranging from yellow to orange to red to black at maturity.
What’s more, after the berries mature, the maple-like Autumn leaves put out a great show of color, turning slowly yellow to red before they drop. Pruning can keep this shrub to any size you please. A great border shrub, or as a centerpiece. Very low maintenance.
Environment and Culture
Golden Currant’s wild home is vast and varied; it can thrive in mountain meadows, coniferous forests, dry prairies, along streams, or even on the coast. It can be found alongside Black Gooseberry, under White or Black Oak and California Pine Nut, and above a medley of native wildflowers. It’s adapted to regular low-intensity fires that inspired it to regenerate from it’s base.
There are over 25 species of Ribes in California alone, and Golden Currant is among the most drought tolerant. Currants are a great wildlife attractor, as well. They are a valuable food source for songbirds, bumblebees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other native wildlife.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Golden Currant doesn’t require any special care. However, we do recommend pruning for fruit productivity and shape (it can handle hard pruning).
Keep shrub clear of dead and competing branches, and prune out any limb older than three years (doesn’t produce well after that). For particularly vigorous plants, it may be necessary to prune limbs halfway back in the Winter annually to prevent them from arching onto the ground the following Autumn.
Harvest of both flowers and fruit is simple and straightforward. Flowers are best consumed fresh. Berries, however, have a variety of options. They can be used fresh in pies, ice creams, crisps, or cobblers. They can be dried on screens in light shade (protected from birds) to be later added to granolas, cereals, or trailmixes. They can made easily into superb jams or jellies for the pantry.
Native Range: Western States
USDA zones: Hardy to zone 3
Ease of Care: High, once established
Deer Resistance: High
Light Requirements: Shade tolerant, fruits better in Sun
Soil Type: Any
Water Requirements: Very drought tolerant, but enjoys moisture
Pollination: Self-Fertile, but cross-pollination increases yields