The redcurrant is the fruit of a shrub with thorns and which can reach 1 meter high. There are more than 150 varieties of redcurrants. The countries producing the most of this fruit are Germany, Poland and Russia. Redcurrants are usually classified into two categories: redcurrants and gooseberries.
Redcurrants are round, white or red berries about 5 mm in diameter and native from Northern Europe and Asia.
Gooseberries are berries which can be yellow, green, white or red depending on the variety. They’re bigger than redcurrants. Unlike the latter, they grow alone rather than in clusters. Their flesh is filled with small eatable seeds and has an acidic taste.
History of redcurrants
Redcurrants are no longer cultivated in North America because in the nineteenth century, a mushroom destroyed almost all of the shrubs producing the redcurrants. So they are not offered fresh in these areas. The name gooseberry would come from a sweet and sour sauce cooked from these redcurrants and which accompanied mackerel fish among English dishes.
The redcurrant was recorded in our gardens only from the fifteenth century onwards. The redcurrants or gooseberries, as well as the blackcurrant (formerly known as “Black Gooseberry”) belong to the genus Ribes. This term may have an Arab origin (it would mean “sour”) would have been introduced in Europe after the conquest of Spain. These fruits would then have been designated redcurrants. At first, this plant was unknown to the native people. It was identified in gardens only in the fifteenth century. One common hypothesis is that this fruit would have been introduced in the Middle Ages by the Normans or the Danish, thus explaining its nickname “Redcurrants from overseas”. From the northern countries, the gooseberries were, on the other hand, very common by the Middle Ages in England where they were used as a garnish of fish which gave them their name.
Nutritional properties of redcurrants
Redcurrants are refreshing with their berries filled with juice. This fruit is one of the least charged in carbohydrates: 4.4 to 5.2 g for 100 g (compared to 9 to 12 g in most fruits).
It also has a high content of natural organic acids (on average, 2.4 g for 100 g), which gives it a distinctly tart flavor. These organic acids are made up of almost 75% citric acid, for 25% malic acid (there are also small amounts of other organic acids, including quinic acids, oxalic, salicylic and chlorogenic).
Redcurrants bring 33 kcal for 100 g: It ranks among the least energetic fruits, at the same level as the lemon.
Carbohydrates (4 kcal/g) and organic acids (2.5 kcal/g citric acid) provide the most part of its caloric intake. In fact, the other energy constituents are scarce in the redcurrants: proteins do not exceed 1.1 g for 100 g, and lipids or fats are present only in the state of traces (0.3 g for 100 g), as is otherwise usual in fresh fruit.
The vitamin profile of the redcurrants is characterized by a high vitamin C intake: on average, 40 mg for 100 g, which is comparable to grapefruit or clementine. Vitamin C is associated in this fruit with abundant flavonoid substances (55 to 65 mg for 100 g). They also have a specific effect on the protection of small blood vessels (capillaries), and promote a good fluidity of the blood. Thus, the vitamin interest of the redcurrants is not only due to its interesting rate of vitamin C itself, but also to a high level of flavonoids.
It also contains significant amounts of vitamin E (0.7 mg for 100 g, which is an interesting rate for a fruit), and small quantities of provitamin A (0.02 mg on average).
Redcurrants contain a wide range of minerals: potassium occurs largely as in most fresh plants (280 mg for 100 g), followed by calcium (36 mg), phosphorus (30 mg), magnesium (13 mg). Very many trace elements have also been identified in this fruit: iron (1.2 mg, a relatively high rate for a fruit), manganese, copper and zinc, fluorine, iodine, selenium, etc. These components are found in the juice extracted from the redcurrants (especially for the preparation of jelly or grout).
Finally, it is worthwhile to note the particularly high rate of fiber in redcurrants, since it is around 8 g for 100 g (a rate much higher than that of most fruits, in which it usually does not exceed 2 to 3 g for 100 g). They are essentially insoluble fibers: lignin, the main constituent of seeds, cellulose and hemicelluloses, which form the cell walls of plants. However, there are also soluble fibers, pectins, at a rate of 0.7 to 1.2 g for 100 g: redcurrants are one of the fresh fruit that brings a lot, which justifies its frequent use (alone or in combination with other fruits) in the confection of jelly and jam: The pectin promotes in effect the “catch” in jelly fruit or fruit juice.
The astringency of redcurrants (this fruit appears to be a little “bitter” when it is tasted) is due to the presence of special substances close to the tannins, the catechins, which are derivatives of flavonoid compounds. These substances, which are found in this fruit at a rate of 7 to 15 mg for 100 g, also give phe “body” to the redcurrant.
The more or less marked red color of redcurrants is related to the presence of anthocyanin pigments, phenolic compounds also belonging to the flavonoid group
Redcurrants are a good source of vitamin C. 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-hemed iron of plant origin.
Redcurrants are also rich in phenolic compounds and flavonoids, a substance with strong antioxydant potential.
Redcurrants are also a good source of potassium. Like sodium, potassium is an essential mineral which 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 the kidneys and adrenal glands and also to the synthesis of proteins and to the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Redcurrants are fruits rich in pectin, a type of fiber which has the property to form a gel by trapping the water. 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.
Due to their richness in pectin, the redcurrants are prepared to make compotes, jellies and jams. On the other hand they are also used in the preparation of syrup and wine. They are usually cooked and can be incorporated into puddings, cakes and pies. They are also eaten plain, alone or in salads but raw, they have a sour flavor. They accompany pears, plums, raspberries, and pineapples. Redcurrant juice can also replace vinegar in the preparation of an oil and vinegar dressing.
For gooseberries, they can be eaten raw with a little sugar but also in pies, sorbets, jellies and syrups, puddings and fruit salad. They can also be used for garnishing meat or fish including mackerel.
If the goal is to make jams or jellies, it is better to choose gooseberries which are not completely ripe because their content in pectin will be higher.
The cooking of gooseberries 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.
The best varieties of redcurrants:
Wilder: Harvest in mid-July, vigorous bush, long clusters of light red fruits. Good balance between sugar and acid.
Martin: Early harvest from the end of June, ideal for the southern half of France, large sweet red fruits rich in pectin.
Glory of the Sablons: Harvest in mid-July, shrub with the sweetest and sweetest pink fruits.
Versailles: White fruits with low acid and very fruity rosés.
The most fragrant varieties of gooseberries:
Varianta: Very bushy and thorny, it offers golden, sweet and fragrant white fruits
Freedonia: The fruits of this gooseberry, plump, ovoid and firm are Red Viney, with a very pronounced flavor, particularly appreciated in pastry.
Tarts with redcurrants: a shortbread almond paste, a little diplomat cream and freshly picked currant.
Those with red berries are more acidic and can be associated with a custard or a tutti frutti cream to decorate a white-baked shortbread, or added to a semolina cake, a rice pudding, a crumble or a fruit salad. Do not hesitate, if you have a large quantity, to make syrups, jellies and jams, alone or in combination with other fruits.
Given their acidity, they can very well be combined with salty dishes (game, roast pork, veal liver) as well as sour-sweet preparations such as chutneys.