For your health and pleasure - a not too brief history of black currants

ripe black currants

Black currants, long revered for health and pleasure in their native European countries, including France, where they are called cassis, were rooted out of U.S. gardens, and their sale outlawed by our government in the early 1900’s along with their close relative, gooseberry.

The U.S. federal ban, was a result of our native white pine (Pinus strobus), which was an important source of lumber, developing a disease called "white pine blister rust", and the European fruit black currant, (Ribes nigrum) and gooseberry, (Ribes uva-crispa) along with native species of Ribes, were believed to be the culprits, acting as hosts for this viral disease, which is spread by spores.

The federal ban was lifted in 1966, and as our science, understanding and management of the disease evolved (we have many native species of Ribes that could also have acted as hosts, white pine was no longer such an important crop in many states, and the initial infection may have been caused by white pine seedlings shipped to the U.K. and then shipped back, infected, to the U.S.) the choice to grow and/or sell Ribes plants is now left to individual states. Plants in the genus Ribes are now legal to sell throughout Connecticut, New York, Vermont, and parts of Massachusetts. For more information about this disease see: Practical Ecology and Management of White Pine Blister Rust in Currants.

unripe black currants
Black currants still unripe in early spring.

Of course, products made from black currants, such as our Black Currant Cordial, are legal everywhere!

The popularity of growing and enjoying currants and gooseberries in the U.S. never really revived after the original federal ban until recently, when the health properties of black currants became well known. Black currants are as much as five times higher in vitamin C than oranges, and higher in antioxidants than blueberries. British black currants are bred to be darker in color and therefore more potent with anthocyanins, thought to be useful in reducing swelling and inflammation. Some research indicates that they may even be useful in treating diseases such as arthritis and those associated with memory loss.


In your favorite vodka with or without a splash of soda

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Drizzled over rhubarb or other fruit cobblers before baking