Blackcurrant is a small berry, very dark purple, almost black, which grows in clusters on a shrub, the black gooseberry. But it does not taste the same as gooseberry, its flavor is less sour, its skin is thicker, and it is less juicy.
Blackcurrant berries, which grow wherever there is little sunshine, were consumed at all times and their medicinal properties were known empirically.
Blackcurrant: description of the plant
Blackcurrant, whose scientific name is Ribes nigrum, is a shrub belonging to the Grossulariaceae family. It is very close to another shrub, the gooseberry, and for this reason it is frequently named ”black gooseberry”.
Blackcurrant is native in Europe. It is grown in temperate climates and grows on moist, shady grounds and is mainly obtained by cuttings. The Black Down is a variety grown in Europe. It is harvested in July. Blackcurrant is a bushy shrub, from 1 m to 1.5 m in height. Its fragrant leaves are hairy and show 3 to 5 lobes with a triangular shape and a serrated edge.
Its flowers, in clusters, are green on the outside and yellow-red on the inside. Its fruits are eatable black berries, clustered together. These very aromatic berries also have the name blackcurrant. They have smooth skin and produce a thick, sweet, purplish-colored juice. They are topped by the remnants of the flowers chalice from which they come.
Blackcurrant: history and origins
Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum, or black gooseberry) is a small shrub native to the north, east and central part of Europe, in cold temperate regions. In fact, it grows in the relatively cold climates: Russia, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium are the biggest producers. In France, cassis, the French name for blackcurrant, is also cultivated in Rhône-Alpes, in the Loire Valley and in Burgundy. In 1841, in Dijon, the Maison Lejay Goute invented the crème de cassis: it is the beginning of the fame for this fruit that becomes fashionable, especially for the preparation of Kir, a well-known French aperitif.
Blackcurrant has long been used in herbal medicine, but the written traces of its use are relatively recent. The first written document dates from the 12th century: Hildegarde of Bingen, a German religious keen of botany, recommends the use of blackcurrant in the treatment of gout disease.
In the 1990s, extensive pharmacological studies were conducted to prove the interest of the blackcurrant leaf in the field of painful joint manifestations.
Note that blackcurrant oil is now supplanted by evening primrose or borage oils for omega 6 supplementation. In addition to its therapeutic use, blackcurrant is widely used in food for its fruit: to garnish pies, in the form of jam, jelly, sorbet or syrup, and of course cream.
The famous crème de cassis was invented in the 18th century by the Maison Lejay Goute in Dijon, Burgundy. It still serves today, added to white wine, to concoct the Kir, the famous liqueur put to fashion by the canon of the same name.
Health effects of blackcurrant
Blackcurrant is an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, 1 cup of fresh blackcurrant contains three times more vitamin C than a small orange. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to maintain skin integrity, helps heal wounds, protects cells from premature ageing caused by free radicals and facilitates immune functions. In addition, it facilitates the absorption of non-heme iron of plant origin.
These berries are also rich in tannins and flavonoids (anthocyanins) that have a strong antioxidant potential.
In addition, the oil of blackcurrant seeds and its leaves have been studied by many scientists. These would potentially have an anti-inflammatory role, an anti-coagulant effect and a positive influence on blood cholesterol levels.
Blackcurrant is also a good source of potassium. Like sodium, potassium is an essential mineral that performs several necessary functions in the human body. With the help of sodium, it helps to maintain the acid-base balance of the body and it controls the pH inside the cells. It is also essential to the transmission of nerve impulses, to muscular contraction, it contributes to the proper functioning of kidneys and adrenal glands and also to the synthesis of proteins and to the carbohydrates metabolism.
Blackcurrant is a fruit rich in pectin, a type of fiber which has the property to form a gel by trapping the water. The ability of blackcurrant to make jellies and jams will be more interesting if the fruits are not completely ripe. Pectin would have many health benefits, including reduction of blood cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar. Pectin would also have the ability to delay gastric emptying and thus promote satiety. It has also been studied in relation to certain types of cancer including colon cancer. Eventually this one would have the ability to form a physical barrier protecting the intestinal cells from a microbial infection.
Use of blackcurrant
When you buy them, you are looking for an intact and well colored fruit. Blackcurrant is however rarely sold fresh as table fruit. It is mainly sought for the preparation of grout, jelly and jam. It’s also consumed liquid, with the blackcurrant liquor used to make the Kirs or nectar, syrups or liquors.
Cooking is done slowly in a small amount of water or juice. It is advisable to add sugar after cooking to reduce the sour taste of these berries. When they are fresh, they can be kept two to three days in the refrigerator. It is also possible to freeze them whole with or without sugar. It is advisable to wash them only when they are used.
Harvesting and conservation of blackcurrants
When and how to harvest blackcurrant?
The harvest period generally extends from late June to late July, and even August to early September for the latest varieties such as ‘ Baldwin ‘, ‘ Tsema ‘ or ‘ Jet ‘.
Harvesting fruit at full maturity; the color is a good indicator. Blackcurrant berries are ready to be picked up a week after taking a beautiful black color. Before this stage, they will be unsweetened and very acidic. Not picked up in time, they will fall.
Blackcurrants are fragile fruits and require a minimum of care when harvested:
- Pick the fruit early in the morning or early evening.
- Operate using small pointed scissors. A special blueberry comb can also be very useful and facilitate their harvest.
- Place them on a cloth placed inside a basket and do not leave them in the sun after harvest.
- Quickly return to a fresh, well-ventilated area.
- Sorting: discard fruits with traces of disease.
- Avoid harvesting berries when wet.
- Handle the blackcurrants as little as possible in order not to damage or crush them.
How to store blackcurrants well?
Blackcurrants evolve rapidly at room temperature; if you want to keep them longer, cool them very quickly after harvesting. This process will hinder the alteration of the color and texture of the fruit.
It is possible to store them in a cellar, a basement or a granary if the following conditions are met: a constant temperature surrounding the 0 °C, a humidity level of the air between 90 and 95%, no light and good ventilation in order to evacuate the gaseous compounds naturally released by the fruit.
Blackcurrants are consumed up to 3 weeks after harvest. They can also be installed in the refrigerator’s crisper to be eaten in the week. Remove the damaged fruit. Pick and wash the preserved fruits, dry them and put them in an airtight box. However, the cold can dry them out quickly.
Blackcurrants can also be frozen and kept for two years. Again, the quality of the fruit to be frozen should be ensured in order to reduce the risk of damage. On the other hand, it must be done quickly after harvest and spread in different pouches. A little conservation tip: put a spoon of lemon juice and a little sugar in the pouches where the fruits are stored to preserve their outfit.
Blackcurrants in pie, crumble, syrup, jelly, ice … are tasted in a thousand of ways for the pleasure of the young and the old.