AskDefine | Define blackcurrant

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A shrub that produces small, very dark purple, edible berries.
  2. The berry borne by this shrub.

Translations

shrub
berry

Extensive Definition

The Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) is a species of Ribes berry native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia. It is also known as French "cassis".
It is a small shrub growing to 1–2 m tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3-5 cm long and broad, and palmately lobed with five lobes, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 4–6 mm diameter, with five reddish-green to brownish petals; they are produced in racemes 5–10 cm long. When not in fruit, the plant looks similar to the redcurrant shrub, distinguished by a strong fragrance from leaves and stems. The fruit is an edible berry 1 cm diameter, very dark purple in color, almost black, with a glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex, and containing several seeds dense in nutrients.
Plants from Asia are sometimes distinguished as a separate variety Ribes nigrum var. sibiricum, or even as a distinct species Ribes cyathiforme.

History

During World War II most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of vitamin C and blackcurrant plants are suitable for growing in the UK climate, blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the British government. Soon, the yield of the nation's crop increased significantly. From 1942 on almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup (or cordial) and distributed to the nation's children free, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavourings in Britain.
Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but they became extremely rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s. The ban was enacted upon the "discovery" that blackcurrants facilitated the tree disease, white pine blister rust, once thought a threat to the U.S. lumber industry. This disease vector has since been proven false.
The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to individual States' jurisdiction in 1966 and mainly lifted in 2003, allowing currant cultivation to make a comeback in several states including Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Oregon. However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.. Since the federal ban ceased currant production anywhere in the U.S., the fruit is not well-known and has yet to reach the popularity that it had in the U.S. in the 19th century or that it currently has in Europe and the UK. Since black currants are a strong source of antioxidants and vitamins, awareness and popularity are once again growing, with a number of consumer products entering the market.

Nutrients

The fruit has an extraordinarily high vitamin C content (302% of the Daily Value, table). Blackcurrant also yields a good range of essential nutrients and seed oil rich in many nutrients, especially gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid.

Culinary uses

In Russia, it is common to infuse slightly sweetened vodka with blackcurrant leaves, making a deep yellowish-green beverage with a sharp flavor and an astringent taste . Blackcurrant berries can also be used to flavor vodka. In the UK, blackcurrant cordial is often mixed with cider to make a drink called Cider & Black. This drink can be ordered at most pubs. It is also believed that adding a small amount of blackcurrant to Guinness will bring out a sweeter taste in the beer, making it a better beverage in some beer-drinkers' opinions.
Blackcurrants have a sweet and sharp taste. They are made into jelly, jam, juice, ice cream, and liqueur/cordial (see Ribena). In the UK, Europe and Commonwealth countries, some types of confectionery include a blackcurrant flavor, and in Belgium and the Netherlands, cassis is a popular currant soft drink. In the United States, other than Ribena, a nationally available blackcurrant beverage is called CurrantC.

Cooking

Other than being juiced and used in jellies, syrups, and cordials, blackcurrants are used in cooking because their astringent nature brings out flavor in many sauces, meat dishes and desserts. It was once thought that currants needed to be "topped and tailed" (the stalk and flower-remnants removed) before cooking. However, this is not the case as these parts are easily assimilated during the cooking process. If one prefers, the whole blackcurrant stem with fruit can be frozen, then shaken vigorously. The tops and tails are broken off and fruit can be separated easily.

Notes

See also

External links

  • Black-Currant.com - Extensive information about black currants
  • The Blackcurrant Foundation
  • Are They Currants or Raisins?: A short essay making a case that blackcurrants are real currants while "Zante currants" (which are known simply as "currants" in the U.S. and some other parts of the world) are not. It shows no awareness of the theory that blackcurrants and redcurrants took their English name from Zante currants, which seem be the same fruits that were called "raysons of coraunce" (with various spellings) in Middle English, from Old French "raisins de Corauntz". It also mistakenly gives the confusion a recent date.
commons Ribes nigrum
blackcurrant in Bulgarian: Касис
blackcurrant in Catalan: Groseller negre
blackcurrant in Yakut: Моонньоҕон, сэппэрээк
blackcurrant in Czech: Černý rybíz
blackcurrant in Danish: Solbær-busk
blackcurrant in German: Schwarze Johannisbeere
blackcurrant in Spanish: Ribes nigrum
blackcurrant in Esperanto: Ribo
blackcurrant in French: Cassissier
blackcurrant in Ido: Kasiso
blackcurrant in Ossetian: Сау хъæлæрдзы
blackcurrant in Italian: Ribes nigrum
blackcurrant in Hebrew: ענבי שועל
blackcurrant in Lithuanian: Juodasis serbentas
blackcurrant in Hungarian: Feketeribizli
blackcurrant in Dutch: Zwarte bes
blackcurrant in Japanese: クロスグリ
blackcurrant in Norwegian: Solbær
blackcurrant in Polish: Porzeczka czarna
blackcurrant in Portuguese: Cassis
blackcurrant in Quechua: Yananara
blackcurrant in Northern Sami: Čáhppesjieret
blackcurrant in Simple English: Blackcurrant
blackcurrant in Finnish: Mustaherukka
blackcurrant in Swedish: Svarta vinbär
blackcurrant in Ukrainian: Смородина чорна
blackcurrant in Chinese: 黑加仑
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