A popular berry during summertime, deep purple black currants (sometimes called blackcurrants) offer a wealth of nutrients not found anywhere else. The plump little black currant can be puckeringly sour however, so it’s one fruit that usually requires some type of added sweetness, such as honey or stevia, for eating as is or for baking. Black currant sauce can make a delicious savory sauce for serving with lamb, turkey, or fish.
Native to central and northern Europe and Siberia, and found in Britain for over 500 years, the small shrub bearing this fruit is similar to those bearing translucent, white, and red varieties, but while they’re sweeter, they offer fewer vitamins and minerals. Chinese and European folk medicine both claim dozens of traditional uses for black currants as a curative.
Growing your own black currant bushes requires a few tricks. First of all, they require winter temperatures as low as zero degrees centigrade. Choose a sunny location and add compost or well-rotted manure to the hole before planting. Make sure you add two to four inches of mulch around the plants as they thrive in cool, moist soil. Pick black currants while they are dry and still firm. If not used immediately, they can be refrigerated and will last up to a few weeks.
Health Benefits of Black Currants
Infection-fighting vitamin C shows up in a big way in these little berries, with more than 300 percent of the daily recommended value in a 100-gram serving (equivalent to a little under a cup of apple slices). This vitamin has antioxidant properties that stop free radicals (from exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants that cause aging, cancer, heart disease, and inflammation) from damaging cells.
B-vitamins in black currants such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1) are called “essential” because they’re necessary from regular source outside the body – a.k.a. eating them – because these vitamins are needed by the body for metabolism.
Iron is an important mineral in black currants, providing 20 percent of the daily value along with protection against immunity deficiencies and fatigue by transporting oxygen to cells. Also present are copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and potassium for optimal cell, tissue, and organ function in the body. Anthocyanins are one of the compounds that make black currants uniquely powerful in antioxidants. Flavonoids like betacarotene, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin help lower the risk of lung and mouth cancers, protect against neurological diseases, slow the aging process, and fight inflammation.
The list of other things black currants help with is a long one. Studies show they may play a part in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, prevent and treat arthritis, gout, and liver problems, ease problems with menopause, painful periods, and PMS, and against diarrhea. It’s even useful topically for healing wounds and treating insect bites.
As far as ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), black currants offer one of the highest values among every other fruit but a few: chokeberries, elderberries, and cranberries.