Blackcurrant is one of the very popular summer season berries. Indeed, they are incredibly rich in several valuable health-benefiting phytonutrients and antioxidants that are vital for our health.
Blackcurrant is a small shrub belonging to the family of Grossulariaceae, of the genus; Ribes. Its scientific name: Ribes nigrum. Currants are native to central and northern Europe and Siberia.
The Ribes shrub is a fast-growing, deciduous, small shrub reaching about 5-6 ft in height. In general, currants grow best in the regions where summers are humid but winters severe and chilling.
|Blackcurrants (Ribus nigrum). Photo: mwri)|
During the season, Ribes nigrum bears pendulous chain of small berries. Each currant berry has a size of about 1 cm in diameter, very dark purple, almost black with glossy skin, and a persistent calyx at its apex. It can carry about 3-10 tiny, edible seeds.
|Red-black-yellow currants. Photo: Valdemar Fishmen|
Currants can come in different colors. Berries of red, white, and pink currants feature translucent pulp, sweeter in taste. They, however, consider inferior to blackcurrants regarding antioxidant power.
Jostaberry is a hybrid of R. nigrum and other wild gooseberries.
Blackcurrants carry significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Scientific studies suggest that consumption of currants can have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.
Blackcurrants have antioxidant value (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity- ORAC) of 7,950 Trolox Equivalents per 100g, which is one of the highest value for fruits after chokeberries, elderberry, and cranberries. Red currants, however, possess comparatively less ORAC value of 3,387 TE.
They are excellent sources of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C. 100 g of fresh currants provide more than 300% of daily-recommended intake values of vitamin-C.
Research studies have shown that consumption of fruits rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop immunity against infectious agents and also help scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals from the body.
Black currants carry a small but significant amount of vitamin-A, and flavonoid antioxidants such as β -carotene, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin levels. 100 g fresh berries provide 230 IU of vitamin-A. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties.
Vitamin-A is also required for maintaining the integrity of mucosa and skin, and essential for healthy vision. Furthermore, consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoid antioxidants helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh blackcurrants are also rich in many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for metabolism.
They also carry right amounts of mineral iron. 100 g currant berries provide about 20% of daily recommended levels. Iron is an essential co-factor for cytochrome oxidase guided cellular metabolism and red blood cell (RBC) production in the bone marrow.
Additionally, the berries are also a very good source of other important minerals like copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, which are essential for body metabolism.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.41 g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber||4.3 g||11%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.398 mg||8%|
|Vitamin A||230 IU||7.5%|
|Vitamin C||181 mg||301%|
Black currants season lasts from July until October. If the berries have to be stored at all, they should be picked intact. Damaging them can be avoided by harvesting the whole string by its stem, taking care not to damage the spur.
Fresh currants feature deep purple, almost black, with glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex. Avoid berries that are very soft, shriveled, and with cuts/bruises with leaking juice. If not used immediately, store them in the refrigerator, where they keep fresh for few days.
In the wild, blackcurrants can be picked up from their natural habitat and can be consumed "as is." While purchasing from the stores, choose berries that are looking healthy, uniform in size, and bright in color. Wash them in cold water just before use to keep their texture intact.
Here are some serving tips:
|Black currants topped porridge.
Sweet, and delicious red, pink and white varieties of currants can be consumed fresh or dried as snacks.
Tart, astringent quality black currants favored in many culinary dishes, especially boiled and pureed, across Europe.
They give refreshing taste when added to fruit cocktails.
Black currants are being used in the preparation of muffins, pie fillings, and ice creams.
The berries can be employed in the food industry in the preparation of sauce, jam, jelly.
The berries are also used in flavored drink preparation.
Blackcurrants can be eaten safely in children and pregnant women. In some sensitized persons, however, allergic reactions may occur with the berries and food products using them.(Medical disclaimer).
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Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.