Au Currant – Stink Currant

By , July 15, 2010

Monday Michelle and I wandered down the beach to the cliff that more or less delineates the southern boundary of our property. Michelle has a project that required a piece of driftwood of a certain shape, and I tagged along for company. When we got down there, we saw something that caused me to hail Aly, who sat on the veranda, reading in the sun. I called to her to come down to us, and bring buckets. The south wild currant patch was ripe, ready for harvesting.

We think the most common local variety of wild currant is “stink currant,” named for its skunky aroma. It’s not bad—far less pungent than our cultivated catnip, or skunk cabbage (the aroma of which we actually love) nor does the smell translate to flavor. We picked together for about half an hour, enjoying the sunshine and the sighing of the warm breeze in the alders above us. Soon we had about seven cups of berries.

Despite our concerns, the bushes that grow in front of the veranda still held enough fruit to finish off the day’s harvest. By evening we had six or seven jars of prime, fresh currant jam!

As we picked, Michelle and I revived a common debate. Michelle mused about the health of the wild patch, wondering if it wouldn’t benefit from some seaweed mulch from the beach. We’d already trimmed the foliage around the patch a bit in past years to give it more sunshine. The heavily burdened bushes could hardly have been more prolific, yet she wondered if we might do even better.

I feel that we should maintain clear lines between natural and cultivated foods. All of our husbandry efforts should focus on the garden, because wild foods are naturally self-perpetuating. Much of their value to us lies in their ability to fend for themselves. I see no need to extend our gardening efforts to them.

The debate becomes increased yield vs. time and effort management. We each see the other’s point. Evidence weighs more heavily on one side or the other, depending on the year. Monday, hip-deep in fat, dusty-blue berries, I think my side won.

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