Black Currant

The blackcurrant or black currant (Ribes nigrum) is a woody shrub in the family Grossulariaceae grown for its piquant berries. It is native to temperate parts of central and northern Europe and northern Asia where it prefers damp fertile soils and is widely cultivated both commercially and domestically. It is winterhardy, but cold weather at flowering time during the spring reduces the size of the crop. Bunches of small, glossy black fruit develop along the stems in the summer and can be harvested by hand or by machine. The raw fruit is particularly rich in vitamin C and polyphenol phytochemicals. Blackcurrants can be eaten raw but are usually cooked in a variety of sweet or savoury dishes. They are used to make jams, jellies and syrups and are grown commercially for the juice market. The fruit is also used in the preparation of alcoholic beverages and both fruit and foliage have uses in traditional medicine and the preparation of dyes.

 

As a crop, the blackcurrant suffers from several pests and diseases. The most serious disease is reversion, caused by a virus transmitted by the blackcurrant gall mite. Another is white pine blister rust which alternates between two unrelated hosts, one in the genus Ribes (blackcurrant included) and the other a white pine. This fungus caused damage to forests when the fruit was first introduced into North America, where the native white pines have no genetic resistance to the disease. As a result, the blackcurrant has for most of the 20th century been subject to restrictions in parts of the United States as a disease vector. The effectiveness of these restrictions is questionable, since other Ribes species also host the disease and are native to North America.

 

Breeding is being undertaken in Scotland, Poland, Lithuania, Norway, and New Zealand to produce fruit with better eating qualities and bushes with greater hardiness and disease resistance.

 

Ribes nigrum, the blackcurrant, is a medium-sized shrub, growing to 1.5 by 1.5 metres (4.9 by 4.9 ft). The leaves are alternate, simple, 3 to 5 cm (1.2 to 2.0 in) broad and long with five palmate lobes and a serrated margin. All parts of the plant are strongly aromatic. The flowers are produced in racemes known as “strigs” up to 8 cm (3 in) long containing ten to twenty flowers, each about 8 mm (0.3 in) in diameter. Each flower has a hairy calyx with yellow glands, the five lobes of which are longer than the inconspicuous petals. There are five stamens surrounding the stigma and style and two fused carpels. The flowers open in succession from the base of the strig and are mostly insect pollinated, but some pollen is distributed by the wind. A pollen grain landing on a stigma will germinate and send a slender pollen tube down the style to the ovule. In warm weather this takes about 48 hours but in cold weather it may take a week, and by that time, the ovule may have passed the stage where it is receptive. If fewer than about 35 ovules are fertilised, the fruit may not be able to develop and will fall prematurely. Frost can damage both unopened and open flowers when the temperature falls below −1.9 °C (28.6 °F). The flowers at the base of the strig are more protected by the foliage and are less likely to be damaged.

In midsummer the strigs of green fruit ripen to edible berries, very dark purple in colour, almost black, with glossy skins and persistent calyxes at the apex, each containing many seeds. An established bush can produce about 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of fruit each year.

Plants from Northern Asia are sometimes distinguished as a separate variety, Ribes nigrum var. sibiricum, of which Ribes cyathiforme is considered a synonym.

History

The blackcurrant is native to northern Europe and Asia. It was cultivated in Russia by the 11th century when it was present in monastery gardens and also grown in towns and settlements. Cultivation in Europe is thought to have started around the last decades of the 17th century. Decoction of the leaves, bark or roots was also used as traditional remedies.

During World War II, most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became difficult to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of the vitamin and blackcurrant plants are suitable for growing in the UK climate, the British Government encouraged their cultivation and soon the yield of the nation’s crop increased significantly. From 1942 onwards, blackcurrant syrup was distributed free of charge to children under the age of two, and this may have given rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant as a flavouring in Britain.In Britain the commercial crop is completely mechanised and about 1,400 hectares of the fruit are grown, mostly under contract to the juicing industry. Commercially, most large-scale cultivation of blackcurrants is done in eastern Europe for the juice and juice concentrate market. As of 2017, major cultivation efforts to improve fruit characteristics occurred in Scotland, New Zealand, and Poland.

 

Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became less common in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry. The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon. However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Since the American federal ban curtailed currant production nationally for nearly a century, the fruit remains largely unknown in the United States, and has yet to regain its previous popularity to levels enjoyed in Europe or New Zealand. Owing to its unique flavour and richness in polyphenols, dietary fibre and essential nutrients, awareness and popularity of blackcurrant is once again growing, with a number of consumer products entering the U.S. market

 

 

21 Amazing Benefits

 

1.Keeps Our Cardiovascular System Healthy

Eating blackcurrant on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for our heart as it helps in keeping our heart healthy and reduces the risk of various cardiovascular problems like heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat etc. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of polyphenolic compounds like flavonoids in them.

In addition to this, they are also a rich source of antioxidants that prevents the inner walls of our arteries from oxidative damage and also minimizes the formation of toxic substances on the interior walls of blood vessels. This helps in the smoother flow of blood through our cardiovascular system and thus keeps it healthy.

2.Helps In Controlling High Blood Pressure

Blackcurrant is very beneficial for the individuals who are struggling with high blood pressure. Regular and moderate consumption of blackcurrant is very beneficial for reducing the risk of high blood pressure or hypertension because of the presence of potassium in it. Potassium is a natural vasodilator which relaxes our blood vessels and ensures smooth flow of blood and thus helps in regulating blood pressure.

3.Is A Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Blackcurrants are also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and presence of Omega-3 makes them very beneficial for regulating cholesterol level in our body. Eating blackcurrant on a regular and moderate basis lowers LDL cholesterol level  ( aka LDL cholesterol) and at the same time, boosts good cholesterol level ( aka HDL cholesterol). Too much LDL cholesterol is bad for our health as it gets deposited within the arteries and blood vessels block them and thus increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems like heart attack, heart stroke, irregular heartbeat etc.

By regulating cholesterol level, blackcurrant not only protects us from the various cardiovascular problem but also helps in regulating blood pressure, which is a major health problem that affects millions of people all over the world.

4.Provides Anticarcinogenic Benefits

Blackcurrants are anti-carcinogenic in nature which means they reduce the risk of development of cancer in our body. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of antioxidants like Vitamin C, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin etc. in them.

These antioxidants and antioxidantal compounds fight with the free radicals of our body, stabilizes them and thus prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our body cells and thus reduces the risk of cancer. Free radicals are nothing but the unstabilized ions that get formed mainly during the oxidation process in our body. As they are unstabilized, so they steal electrons from the molecules of our body cells, and while doing so they cause oxidative damage to them.

Regular and moderate intake of blackcurrant prevents our body cells from this oxidative damage and thus reduces the risk of various cancer(s).

5.Helps In Fighting Infections

Another important health benefit of blackcurrant is their ability to make our immune system stronger and build a resistance against infections. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of vitamin C in it. One cup of blackcurrant provides around 338 percent of the daily vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that fights with the free radicals of our body, stabilizes them and thus prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our body cells ( including the immune system).

By making our immune system stronger, blackcurrants make us less vulnerable to cold, fever and infections.

6.Provides Antibacterial Benefits

Regular and moderate consumption of blackcurrant is also beneficial for reducing the risk of bacterial infections like Urinary tract infection and other infections. This antibacterial nature of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of chemical compounds like tannin and anthocyanin in them. These compounds hinder the growth of bacteria within the urinary tract and thus reduces the infection risk.

7.Good For Our Brain

Blackcurrant is good not only for our general health but also for our brain health. Eating blackcurrant on a regular ( but moderate) basis sharpens our memory and also boosts the oxygen supply to our brain. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of iron and antioxidants in them.

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Iron boosts the supply of oxygen to each and every nerve cell of our brain, and thus helps it to function properly. While on the other hand, antioxidants present in blackcurrant fights with the free radicals of our body stabilizes them and thus prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our brain ( and the body) cells.

By protecting our brain from the oxidative damage, blackcurrant also minimizes the risk of various neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s etc.

8.Reduces The Risk of Anemia

Eating blackcurrant on a regular basis is also beneficial for reducing the risk of anemia and for providing relief from the same. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly because of the Iron present in them. The Iron present in blackcurrant aids in the formation of red blood cells and ensures oxygenated blood reaches to every part of our body, and thus reduces the risk of anemia.

In addition to this, the copper present in blackcurrant also plays an important role in the formation of new blood cells. Some of the common symptoms of anemia are general fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pale skin, tongue swelling, headache, irregular heartbeat etc. (source).

9.Provides Relief From From Gastrointestinal And Cardiovascular Inflammation

Blackcurrants are a rich source of a number of antioxidants and other  compounds like tannins, anthocyanin, phytonutrients etc. and presence of these compounds make them very beneficial for preventing against gastrointestinal as well as cardiovascular inflammation. This is another interesting and important reason to include blackcurrant in your diet.

10.Good For Our Eyes

Our eyes are a vital organ that allows us to enjoy the beauty of the world. It is important for us to make sure that we are taking good care of our eyes. Eating blackcurrants on a regular basis can help in doing the same. This is because blackcurrants are a good source of a number of antioxidants like Vitamin C that fights with the free radicals of our body, stabilizes them and thus prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our eyes.

By reducing the risk of oxidative damage to eyes, it also reduces the risk of eye problems like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts etc. In addition to this, blackcurrants are also a good source of vitamin A which is a vital nutrient for our eyes and plays an important role in keeping our eyes healthy. It not only improves our eyesight but also reduces the risk of vision loss.

11.Assist In Energy Production

Eating blackcurrant on a regular basis is also beneficial for the production of energy in our body. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of vital nutrient manganese in it. Manganese can assist some enzymes responsible for the production of energy in our body. In addition to this, manganese also plays an important role in strengthening the antioxidants defense in our body.

12.Provides Herbal Benefits

Blackcurrant is widely used as an herbal medicine in many parts of the Europe. It is taken by women for easing PMS and menopause symptoms. Some other herbal benefits of blackcurrant include treating cold, flu, and fevers. Almost every part, be it leaves, seed oil, fruits etc. of blackcurrant plant is used as medicine.

13.Provides Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Blackcurrant is anti-inflammatory in nature and this makes them very beneficial for providing relief from anti-inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, gouts etc. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of Vitamin C in it.

In addition to this, blackcurrant is also a good source of gamma-linolenic acid ( GLA) which is very beneficial for easing inflammation in our body.  It may help in reducing joint pain, stiffness,soreness of joints etc.

14.Excellent Source of Vitamin C

Blackcurrant is a rich source of vitamin C which is a vital nutrient that plays a number of roles. Being an antioxidant, it fights with the free radicals of our body and prevents us from the oxidative damage. It also boosts our immune system and reduces the risk of getting infected by cold, flu etc. It also reduces the risk of various cancers and the anti-inflammatory nature of Vitamin C helps in providing relief from inflammatory diseases like arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis etc.

to these benefits, vitamin C also plays an important role in the production of collagen ( a connective tissue) which maintains the elasticity of our skin.

15.Helps In Controlling Blood Sugar Level

Regular and moderate consumption of blackcurrant is beneficial for the individual suffering from diabetes. This is because blackcurrants have a low GI ( Glycemic index) which means they release sugar into the bloodstream at a slow pace, and thus helps in controlling diabetes.

16.Provides Relief From Insomnia

Another important benefit of blackcurrant is its ability to improve the quality of sleep and providing  relief from Insomnia. If you face difficulty in sleeping, then it will be a good idea to include blackcurrants in your diet. The Magnesium present in blackcurrant plays an important role in improving the quality, duration and calmness of sleep. It regulates metabolism, provides relief from sleep disorders and minimizes the occurrence of Insomnia.

17.Provides Relief From Constipation

Blackcurrant is very good for our stomach and plays an important role in keeping our digestive system healthy. This benefit of blackcurrant is mainly due to the presence of dietary fibers in it. The dietary fibers present in blackcurrant regulates bowel movement and ensures smooth elimination of waste from our body, and thus provide relief from constipation. As constipation is a major threat to our digestive system, so by eliminating constipation, blackcurrants also eliminate the risk of various digestive problems.

18.Provides Anti-viral Benefits

As per a study published in the 2013 edition of “Frontiers of Microbiology,” it was found that extracts obtained from the blackcurrant leaves could defend against the influenza A virus ( Flu virus) as it prevents the propagation of flu virus during the initial stages. It has been concluded that blackcurrant leaves extract could help in lowering the infection risk caused by the Influenza A virus ( Although this can’t be said for sure as human testing is still needed).

19.Beneficial For Individuals Suffering From PAD

Another important benefit of blackcurrant is their ability to reduce the swelling in the patients suffering from the peripheral arterial disease. For this benefit, consume blackcurrant juice in combination with orange juice.

20.Provides Relief From Circulatory problems

Regular and moderate consumption of blackcurrant lowers the pain and swelling in women that suffer from circulatory problems linked with taking birth  control pills.

21.Strengthens Our Bones And Teeth

Blackcurrant is a good source of calcium, magnesium, copper etc. and presence of these vital nutrients plays an important role in making our bones and teeth stronger. Regular consumption of blackcurrant not only improves the strength of our bones but also reduces the risk of Osteoporosis ( a condition in which our bones get extremely weak and fragile, and are at a higher risk of fracture).