NEW FOR 2022. 'Imperial White' currant was released by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva in 1890, just eight years after the research station began operations (it was created by an act of the New York legislature in 1880). This beautiful and delicious cultivar was one of the earliest releases of the state of New York's public plant breeding program, and one of its most successful (alongside famous apple varieties including Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, Jonamac, and Macoun). 'Imperial White' is the most popular white currant variety around the world.
White currants are the same species as red currants (formerly Ribes rubrum, but now called Ribes spicatum), they just lack the red coloration. By small degrees, but noticeably so, they are sweeter than their red counterparts. But they are still very tart, to the point that most people don't enjoy them fresh. Where currants absolutely shine is when combined with sugar to produce jam or jelly or wine. They also make a sprightly addition to pies and cakes and other desserts (though, contrary to popular belief, the "currants" called for in baking recipes, which you often see dried in grocery stores, are actually a very old type of raisin grape called a "currant" — and the berries actually take their name from the grape, not the other way around). In the Netherlands, where currants of all colors are sold fresh in markets almost throughout the year (imported from Chile in the winter), pasteurized pure red currant juice can be found in most every supermarket's baking section, because it's used in various desserts. Before grapes became popular in the US, most American wine was actually made from currants! White currants also produce one of the world's most expensive and sought-after jams, the famous "Bar-le-Duc" from France's Lorraine region (where women in white coats use goose feathers to pluck out the seeds from each individual fruit, which are then quickly boiled in syrup so they remain intact; the resulting jam is sometimes referred to as the caviar of fruit!).
The currant plants from which these seeds come are growing in close proximity to red and pink currants, and other white cultivars, so you might get plants with fruit of any of these colors — though from what we understand of currant genetics that would be true even if they were only grown near white currants. As with the other fruit cultivar seeds we're selling, every seedling will be a unique combination of genes, so you are free to give any name you want to any of the plants you grow from these seeds! If you find any that are really special, we hope you'll share cuttings with us!
GROWING TIPS: The biggest challenge with currants is germination. The seeds have some dormancy issues, so at least one cold-moist stratification period (3-4 months) is normally required. Alternatively, seeds can also be planted outdoors in the fall or early-mid winter to allow nature to take its course. The many changes in temperature they experience in the real world can help them break dormancy. We recommend trying both methods! Given the long stratification often necessary, we have not germination tested these seeds and so are selling them as botanical samples. But they are fresh, harvested and processed by Nate in 2021. As with gooseberries, it's worth checking with your local agricultural authorities to make sure you're allowed to grow Ribes species (which are still prohibited in some places because they are carriers of White Pine Blister Rust, a fungal pathogen).