Currants, Black Currants or Blackcurrants?
Black currants get known by various names in English, but in other languages like German, they are called "schwarze Johannisbeeren," which is the origin behind the name "black currants.” They can also be referred to as "elderberries" and other regional variants.
It's easy to find black currants during their season — usually late June, early July, through August. If you're growing them yourself, you must clean and prepare your plants so they can grow well. You can eat these plants during spring.
In case you are wondering what blackcurrants taste like? Then you might recollect that blackcurrants are, in fact, redcurrants, just dark in color. What sets the blackcurrant apart from other red berries is that it is sour, making it a better choice for making jams, pies, and cordials.
Buying and Storing Blackcurrants
Blackcurrants are the fruits of the Ribes nigrum plant. The plant is self-pollinating and only grows in the wild in the Northwest of England and Scotland. They do not tolerate frost. It is a deciduous shrub in the family Grossulariaceae grown for its edible berries.
You should pick blackcurrants when they’ve turned deep purple or black.
For up to three weeks, you can store them in your refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag with a few holes in it. Before using them, you should wash them in a colander under cool running water and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Easy Ways to Try Out Blackcurrants
Are you new to blackcurrants? Would you like to try a few out? Here are some options that you should try.
Blackcurrants can often be used in place of other berries such as raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries in desserts such as scones, muffins, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes, cobblers, and pies.
Blackcurrant jams, jellies, or chutneys are also famous, and they can be made into juices, added to yogurt, ice creams, smoothies, sorbets, and more.
Perhaps the simplest way to try out blackcurrants is by adding some fresh berries to the pan with a bit of water and sugar and gently cooking until the berries burst. You can then pour this sauce over ice cream, fresh fruits, or cheesecake.
The Importance of Blackcurrants in Europe
Possibly because it seems like strange fruit, very unfamiliar to most of us, blackcurrants have had a very long history of being forgotten and neglected. Perhaps their uniqueness is the reason for this neglect, or maybe it is because they are somewhat hidden away in a confined corner of the continent. Whatever the reason, the blackcurrant should not be forgotten or ignored.
Blackcurrants first originated in Northern Europe and were spread across the continent by the Romans. Before the Europeans populated North America, blackcurrants played a pivotal role in the diet of natives.
It played a significant role during the Second World War. When the UK was suffering from vitamin C deficiency because of no access to any European citrus fruits due to German blockades, the UK government proposed blackcurrants as a suitable substitute. Children under the age of two were given free doses of blackcurrant syrup to help prevent vitamin C deficiency. Even today, purple candies in Europe are usually blackcurrant flavor rather than grape.
Why Blackcurrants Became Forgotten and Forbidden in the US?
In the US, blackcurrants were linked with white pine blister rust (WPBR), a tree fungus, and the government restricted its commercial growth in 1911 across the US.
The blackcurrant seeds contain an ingredient called 'juglone' that actively prevents any other plants from growing near them. The currants themselves are toxic and need to be thoroughly rinsed if you want to avoid any unpleasant consequences. Despite the known toxicity of the blackcurrant plant itself, the berries are believed to have many health benefits.
Currently, the USDA does not track blackcurrant production, so it is difficult to certainty how many are grown. Few states still enforce a ban on blackcurrant cultivation, but there are blackcurrant farms in New York, Connecticut, British Columbia, Washington, and Canada.
Blackcurrants are the best source of vitamin C. Of all the berries globally, and the blackcurrant is one of the most distinctive, sought-after, and tasty. With three to four times the amount of vitamin C found in oranges by weight and twice the antioxidant content of blueberries, it is little wonder that blackcurrants are beginning to make a reappearance in the world.
Drinking black currant juice with a meal helps increase the amount of bile produced by the liver, thus preventing some of the more severe symptoms of indigestion.
Something is alluring and mystical about blackcurrants. While the fruit originated in 18th century Europe, it was spread all around the world by explorers. Even today, blackcurrant production is primarily found in Europe, with Russia as the largest producer. It is also grown in many other regions, especially New Zealand, where the fruit is very popular.
Blackcurrants are pretty good for your health. While some scientists say they are just a bit sweeter than blueberries and blackberries, others claim they are up to 40% higher in antioxidants than berries. Some research even suggests that blackcurrants might reduce blood pressure and help maintain healthy blood flow and cardiovascular function.
Historically, blackcurrants have had a troubled past – having been declared illegal. Of course, modern blackcurrants are as safe as ones from other berries – but they are often overlooked for berries that are easier to grow and more popular.