Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blackcurrants

One of my favourite summer fruits is blackcurrants. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find them here in the US. Blueberries, on the other hand, which I never had when I was growing up in England, are very popular over here. Blueberries look very similar to blackcurrants, but taste very different. For years blueberries have disappointed me. I would see a blueberry pie being served and it looked so much like blackcurrant I would have to have a slice. Then I would realize it was indeed blueish in colour and not purple. I'd take a bite and be disappointed by the lack of flavour. Blueberries always seem very bland compared to blackcurrants.

It wasn't until recently that I discovered the reason for blackcurrants' rarity in the US is that many states banned blackcurrant growing in the early 1900's in order to prevent the spread of white pine blister rust, Cronartium ribicola, a disease affecting white pine trees, a mainstay back then of the timber industry. Today the use of white pine as lumber is rare and disease-resistant plants are available, but the antiquated ban on producing blackcurrants remained in effect pretty much nationwide until recently. Some states are now allowing blackcurrant plants to be reintroduced. In New York State it was primarily the result of the efforts of one 'gentleman farmer' who now runs a company that sells blackcurrant 'nectar', blackcurrants. I can now buy blackcurrant 'nectar' at our local supermarket! (I can buy Ribena too - but it is insanely expensive as it is imported. Blackcurrant jam too, imported from Poland, and worth the price even though DS has decided it makes very good PB&J sandwiches now that he's finally understood that the lumps in the jam are the fruit!) I could order frozen blackcurrants online at $5/lb, for a minimum of 3 lbs (plus shipping & handling of course!)

They even sell currant bushes via mailorder. The law in my state still says however:
"No person shall deliver within the Commonwealth from outside the Commonwealth any blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) plant, root, scion, seed or cutting."
So no blackcurrant bushes in our backyard for the foreseeable future! Still, over the years I have gotten to like blueberries for what they are and appreciate that, unlike blackcurrants, you can eat them raw. In fact, I've decided that's mostly my favorite way of eating them, though I don't object if they're cooked into pancakes or muffins. Tonight's dessert was definitely one for blueberries though, not blackcurrants, as it did need raw fruit. However, I modified the original 'Real Simple' recipe slightly and the 0% fat Greek yogurt (instead of cream cheese and cream - thanks for the inspiration Mum!) along with the lemon zest (called for in the original) gave it some of the tartness I miss from blackcurrants.

8 comments:

Iota said...

Blueberries are very very good for you. They're one of those superfoods. They detoxify you.

rosiero said...

I agree with you. Although blueberries are the new superfood and are oozing with vitamin C, I find them quite tasteless. Such a shame that there is ban on blackcurrants in your State.

Little Britainer said...

That's amazing - I'd always assumed the lack of blackcurrants was some biological thing, they just didn't grow without the requisite inches of rain and cloudy summer, or something... Who knew. I've actually seen redcurrants in the shops here a few times in the autumn, but never blackcurrants.

AndnI agree with you. I like blueberries, but they are bland compared to blackcurrants.

sablonneuse said...

That was interesting. I didn't know blackcurrants carried that disease.
Actually, I prefer blueberries, perhaps because Ribena put me off the taste of blackcurrants long ago. As has been mentioned, they are very good for you, for the reasons already given - and for your eyes.
Blueberry jam is delicious.

Karen @ If I Could Escape . . . said...

Very interesting! My boys were given a lecture on blackcurrents by the kind folks at the Royal Highland Show when we were over in Scotland! They look for them every time we go to the shops now, but alas we never find them!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was really impressive that you were able to find out all about the reason there weren't any blackcurrants. Blackcurrant jam is one of my favorites, but I've always just bought it in the grocery store, I certainly never saw it was imported, but I don't know in what state the berries were being grown--maybe in California!

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mumof4 said...

But I miss blackcurrant jam! Occasionally find it in a British shop here....
And the latin must be where Ribena gets it's name from.
Who knew?

nicq said...

If you already buy imported Polish blackcurrant jam, check the shelf for blueberry jam ("dżem jagodowy" or "konfitura jagodowa"), which is delicious! (due to the fact that it's made from wild blueberries, not the bland cultivated ones)

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