Unlock the Secret Benefits of Black Currant: A Comprehensive Guide to All You Need to Know!
What is Black Currant?
The woody shrubs known as black currants (Ribes nigrum) are indigenous to Europe and Asia, but were introduced to the Americas in the 1800s. Belonging to the Gooseberry family, this plant has a diverse range of varieties. Its berries mature on the shrubs throughout the summer and can be utilized for culinary purposes, beverages, and herbal remedies.
Black currant shrubs are typically medium-sized, reaching a height of only 5 feet. The plant blooms in strings and relies on insect pollination. By mid-summer, the shrub yields fruit, with green berries maturing into lustrous, purple fruits. Each shrub has the potential to produce up to 10 pounds of fruit annually.
Despite being susceptible to several diseases and fungus, black currant shrubs are generally hardy enough to withstand the winter season. They are typically planted during the fall or winter to initiate growth in the spring. Unfortunately, due to their vulnerability to diseases, many Americans are not acquainted with black currants. Nevertheless, once harvested, these berries can be an excellent addition to both sweet and savory dishes, as well as jams, syrups, and alcoholic beverages.
What Does Black Currant Look Like?
The black currant plant is a shrub that yields small, deep purple berries that are about ⅓ inch in size. These shrubs tend to grow in clusters and only reach a few feet in height. The leaves of this plant are light green in color and possess rounded tips. Unlike several other shrubs that produce berries, black currants lack thorns along their stems, and their bark has a coarse texture.
What Does Black Currant Taste Like?
The pronounced, sour flavor of black currants is attributed to their elevated tannin content. These berries possess a robust, earthy essence, with a grape-like flavor that is acidic and has hints of cherry. When dried, black currants exhibit subtle notes of vanilla and wildflower. In their dried form, they are comparatively sweeter to eat.
What is Black Currant Good For?
Nutritionally dense, black currants are known to confer a multitude of benefits to the body. Raw black currants contain substantial amounts of vitamin C, iron, and manganese. The abundance of antioxidants present in these berries plays a crucial role in enhancing the immune system and alleviating minor illnesses like sore throat and flu symptoms. Moreover, black currants have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic properties that contribute to their health-promoting effects.
Black currants offer a myriad of possibilities when it comes to culinary applications. Although some may find their sour taste challenging, black currants can be combined with other ingredients to create a variety of flavors and dishes.
Typically used to prepare jams, compotes, and syrups, black currants are not usually consumed fresh and are often blended with other fruits. They can be paired with apples to make apple crumble or mixed with other berries to create sweet treats like gelatin, popsicles, or pudding.
Surprisingly, black currants can also be used in savory dishes due to their acidic and red wine-like taste that complements game meats such as duck, venison, or pork.
Lastly, black currants are ideal for use in beverages, including teas and alcoholic drinks, as they possess a full-bodied flavor akin to that of wine. They can be added to mojitos, liqueur, and cocktails to create unique and delectable drinks.
What are Black Currants called in America?
Black currants are known by several names, including blackcurrant, cassis, or their scientific name, Ribes nigrum. In the United States, they are still commonly referred to as "black currant," as well as "red currant," "white currant," or simply "currant." These various naming conventions may cause confusion for some, as they can be mistaken for raisins.
Is Black Currant Illegal in the U.S.?
Black currants were once banned in the United States due to the harm they caused to plant life, but they are now making a comeback in many states. While they are not currently illegal, regulations and guidelines vary depending on the state and country of origin. For example, New York lifted the ban in 2006, allowing farmers and producers to develop new products. In Florida, black currants are allowed in the state but are banned from certain countries due to the risk of fruit flies. Special permits are issued for some countries, such as Chile, to import black currants. It is important to check with the local government or the state's Department of Agriculture for information on black currants' regulations and guidelines. Overall, black currants are a nutritious fruit that provides high levels of vitamins to humans.
Why is Black Currant Illegal in the U.S.?
In the past, black currants were banned in the United States for almost a century due to pressure from the logging industry. These berries had been widely grown throughout the country after being introduced to the environment by Europeans, with farmers cultivating over 7,000 acres of currants along with other berries within the Ribes species. However, black currants are no longer banned and are slowly being reintroduced to the American diet.
History of Black Currants
Scientists discovered in the 19th century that black currants were spreading a fungus capable of damaging pine trees, known as blister rust. Chemical sprays were used to eradicate the fungus, leading to the ban of black currants in the United States. This ban was due to the high number of commercial pine tree plantations in the US that were being destroyed by the fungus.
In contrast, Europe did not face the same problems because they did not have as many pine tree plantations. Additionally, black currants were already a staple crop in European culture, so any pine tree plantations were sacrificed to maintain black currant crops. Today, Europe produces almost all of the world's currants.
Reintroduction of Black Currants
Black currants have only been recently reintroduced into the United States after the development of disease-resistant varieties. Since 1966, regulations concerning black currants have been controlled by individual states. This has led to variations in how black currants are treated in each state. However, many states have been convinced to lift the ban on black currants, resulting in their legalization throughout the country.