You’ve probably heard of black currants before, but you might not have tried these interesting berries for yourself – especially if you live in North America. Black currants are a traditional part of European cuisine, and black currant flavors show up in cookbooks dating back centuries.
However, in the 1920’s it was discovered that the black currant plant can be a carrier of a disease affecting pine trees. In an attempt to protect the ecosystem, America banned black currants and their cultivation across the entire country.
Today, the blanket ban on black currants has been lifted but it is still up to each state individually how they want to deal with black currants.
In some states, production has started and black currants are being churned out daily. If you haven’t tried black currants yet, now might be the time to give them a try!
In this article, we’ll look at black currants: what they are, what they taste like, and how you can enjoy them for yourself.
What Is Black Currant?
Black currants are berries with glossy black and purple skins. They grow on a deciduous shrub, native to colder northern regions in Asia and Europe.
Black currants can be eaten raw, but due to their tartness, they are often turned into jellies, jams, and confections with sugar added to counterbalance the tart sourness of the berries.
What Does Black Currant Look Like?
Black currants look similar to grapes or cherries, only with a dark glossy exterior skin that is somewhere between purple and black. On each berry, you will find a calyx with many small seeds.
The berries are between 5mm and 8mm long and grow throughout the shrub rather than in discrete clusters.
What Texture Does Black Currant Have?
Black currants have a thicker than average outer skin, and juicy pulpy flesh inside each berry. The texture of black currants is similar to that of other berries like blueberries and grapes.
Types Of Black Currant?
There are many different types of black currant, both wild and cultivated.
The most common distinction is between European and American black currants. The European variety (Ribus nigrum) is native to northern Europe and Asia and is the common black currant.
The American variety (Ribus Americanum) is native to much of North America and is considered a wild black currant. When the black currant is cultivated, it is usually the European variety rather than the American one.
Here are some well-known varieties of black currant:
- Ben Connan
- Ben Hope
- Ben Sarek
- Ben Lomond
- American Wild Blackcurrants
Where Does Black Currant Come From?
Black currant is native to Northern Europe and Northern Asia. It is a member of the Gooseberry family and is most likely related to ancestors that originated in China.
Is Black Currant Healthy?
A true superfood, black currant is completely packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It would be hard to find a healthier berry.
Black currants have 4 times the amount of Vitamin C that an orange has, and twice the antioxidants that blueberries have!
Combine that with plenty of other useful vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin K, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B6. The minerals and vitamins in black currants can help your eyes, bones, and joints to function at their best.
In addition to providing your body with all of the most important nutrients it needs, black currants can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce arterial plaque, decreasing your chances of developing heart disease.
With lots of dietary fiber, black currants can help you improve your gut health and grow your microbiome. If you deal with gastrointestinal issues, black currants can help to restore you to regularity.
Adding black currants to your diet is a great idea, especially if you enjoy the flavor. Your body will thank you.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Black Currant?
Black currant is very healthy and usually doesn’t present any issues in terms of allergies, etc.
However, there are some potential side effects of eating black currant berries, or supplements derived from the berries and leaves of the black currant plant.
Black currant can promote regularity, but overdoing supplements or eating a ton of black currants can lead to soft stools, diarrhea and gas.
Black currant has been shown to slow blood clotting.
If you are preparing for surgery, you should not eat black currant in the days leading up to it. If you have a bleeding disorder, consider carefully whether or not black currants are a good match for your diet, and consult your doctor if necessary.
How Do You Eat Black Currant?
There are lots of different ways to eat and enjoy black currants.
The berries can be eaten raw directly off the plant. When fresh, black currants are very tart but have a bright, impactful and memorable flavor.
Black currants are also popular as jams and jellies. They break down easily when heated to create sweet confections with an unforgettable black currant flavor.
RELATED: What Does Mulberry Taste Like?
How Can I Store Black Currant?
Black currants don’t store particularly well, which is one of the reasons they are frequently made into jellies, jams and pies.
If you want to keep your black currants safe, put them in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should last for 3-5 days before the flavor becomes progressively sour. Eat your black currants as early as possible for the best results.
Can You freeze Black Currant?
Yes, you can freeze black currants, and they will last from 6 months to a year in your freezer.
To prepare your black currants, rinse them under water to remove any dirt or bugs that might be lingering, and towel them until they are dry.
Add your black currants to a sealed plastic bag, and put it in the freezer.
Can You Grow Black Currant?
Black currants are surprisingly easy to grow. Before you start, however, check your local regulations, especially if you live in the United States.
Even though a national ban on cultivated black currants was ill-conceived and has now been lifted, it remains illegal to cultivate black currants in some states.
You are unlikely to be arrested for it or have issues with the police, especially if you are growing up in your backyard, but it is worth understanding what your local government says.
If you are in the clear, you might find it easier than you thought to grow black currants. They are sturdy, frost-hardy plants that thrive in the northern hemisphere. You don’t have to be an incredible gardener to grow black currants.
It can also be very lucrative! Black currants can be expensive, especially in the United States where there is less of a market for them than in Europe. A single black currant bush after its first year can produce up to 10 lbs of fruit.
If you want a limitless supply of black currants for snacking, jams, jellies, pies and confections, you might consider growing your own black currant bush in your backyard.
Black Currant Nutritional Information
|Per 1/4 cup serving of black currant, according to WebMD.com
Quick Table: Black Currant Recipes
|Calories Per Servings
|Minted Black Currant Sorbet
|Black Currant Jam
|Black Currant Wine
|2 Hours 40 Minutes
This delicious treat merges some flavors you might not think to mix yourself, but which complement each other perfectly.
There is a sweetness and tartness to the black currants that highlights the sweetness of the mint and sorbet. This is a dessert that you’ll not only love, you’ll remember and come back to.
Preparation Time: 35 Minutes
Calories Per Servings: 301
Preserving black currants can be difficult, so if you can’t eat them all at once, making a jam is a great idea.
Black currants have a strong flavor that comes through perfectly when condensed in a jam. Black currant jam works on toast or on crackers, but it has a special appeal when added to sweeter things like cookies or cakes.
A bit of black currant jam provides a tartness and burst of flavor alongside the sweetness that is out of this world.
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Calories Per Servings: 65
If you have never made your own wine at home, this might be a stretch for you, but making your own black currant wine might be your only opportunity to try this incredible tasting experience.
Black currants that have been fermented have an entirely different flavor that you won’t want to miss.
You might have to wait for a while for your homebrew to ferment, but if you finally pop the cork on your homemade bottle of black currant wine the taste alone will be something to celebrate.
Preparation Time: 2 Hours 40 Minutes
Calories Per Servings: 123
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Black Currant Flavor Good?
This is subjective, but many people love the flavor of black currant.
For some, the flavor is overpowering or overwhelming. Some people find black currants too tart or sour, and can only enjoy the flavor as a sweet with lots of sugar added. For them, it is an acquired taste or one that they fail to acquire.
Black currant has a strong and intense flavor, whether it is sweetened and boiled down into a jam or fresh from the berry. You can expect the taste to kick.
If that’s what you love in your berries and sweets, you’ll want to find some black currants. If you prefer a milder taste, a different berry might be your speed.
Do Black Currants Taste Like Blueberries?
Not really – the taste of black currants is stronger and sourer than blueberries. The unique taste of black currants can’t be compared to anything, and it is very different from blueberries.
However, if you are trying to replace black currants in a recipe, blueberries are a pretty good candidate. They are about the same size and have the same amount of juice inside them.
Although the flavor of blueberries is much less intense than black currants, they do the trick when the original is not available.
However, it’s probably not a good idea to replace blueberries with black currents. Any recipe that calls for blueberries is counting on a mild sweet flavor, and the intensity of black currant can overwhelm the dish.
What Fruit Is Similar To Black Currants?
Blueberries make a good replacement for black currants in recipes, but the berry that is most similar to black currants is the mulberry.
Mulberries are closely related to black currants. They are both northern, frost-hardy species that yield antioxidant-rich berries full of vitamins and minerals. They are also both in the Gooseberry family.
Are Black Currants Sweet Or Sour?
Black currants are much more sour than sweet. When you eat them raw, you’ll notice a very tart or sour note along with an underlying sweetness from the berry.
Black currants are both sweet and sour, but you’ll barely notice the sweetness, especially if you eat them raw.
When cooked or dried, black currants are much sweeter.
The drying process turns black currants into something like raisins, concentrating their natural sugars. Dried black currants have the same interesting and complex flavor, but with much more sweetness and reduced sourness.
Likewise, cooking black currants (usually with sugar) sweetens them and reduces their natural tartness, so other aspects of the flavor come out.
Black currant jams, jellies, and confections are sweet – not sour – even if the berries that you pull from the plant are extremely tart.
Does Blackcurrant Taste Like Grapes?
Black currants look sort of like a cross between a grape and a cherry, with similar outer skin and flesh. However, that’s where the similarities end.
Black currants don’t taste at all like grapes, which have a sweeter and very different flavor. Black currents are very sour, while grapes are sweet.
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