Currants: What They Are And Why Currants Are Good For You!

Care Omnia a jar packed with currants
This is why we love berries. Look at those colors!

Currants come in different colors. The most common colors are black, red and white.

The ribes currants should not be confused with the dried currant used in cakes and puddings, which is a small-fruited cultivar of grape, called Zante currant.

Currants contain a lot of nutrients that are good for you. They have high concentrations of anthocyanins, polyphenolics, antioxidants and other beneficial substances.

The nutrient content differs some between the different colors of the berries.

Currants are commonly called "The Scandinavian Grapes". They are known for their high content of vitamin C and E.

There are three common varieties of currants; black, red and white currant. There are also varieties with green, pink and brown berries, but they are very rare.

Currants contain minerals like potassium and calcium that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The berries have small kernels that contain linolenic acid that can lower blood lipids.

Table of Contents

History Of Currants In Scandinavia

In Sweden, they mention currants in texts from the Middle Ages, but it was not until mid-19th century, currants got a big breakthrough.

This was made possible because peasants started building their own gardens while at the time housekeeping companies spread the knowledge of the benefits of berries and started distribution of berry bushes.

Another major contributing factor was that the sugar became cheaper, it's luxury status faded and that made it possible to preserve berries in an affordable way.

What Are Currants?

Currants comes in several different colors. The most common color are black, red and white. Some of the more unusual colors are green, pink and yellow.

Currants grow on shrubs and is a very common garden plant.

The green berries are a mutation of the black currants, just like the white are a mutation of the red currant. It’s the same berries but whiteout the pigment.

The pink berries are a hybrid between the red currants and white currants.

There are at least 100 species of currants. They are natives of temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere and of western South America.

You can also find them in the Rocky Mountains in North America.

Care Omnia all three colors of currants
Red-, White- and Black currants. Use them separately or mix them

The Genus Of The Currant Plant: Ribes

Ribes is the genus of currant berry plants. There are about 150 known spices in that genus. Most species of the berries grow in cold and temperate areas of the northern hemisphere.

The genus contain species such as

Black currants are of the spieces Ribes nigurum.

Red currants and white currants are of the spieces Ribes rubrum.

Red currants, however, is a collective name for several species and hybrids. The white currants are really a mutation of the red variety.

What Are Currants Good For?

The currants nutrition content differs some depending on the color. The black currant for instance is known for its high anthocyanin and vitamin C content. Currant berries are all rich sources of compounds with high antioxidant properties.

A study of the Mineral composition of fruit in black and red currants , was published 2015 in the South Western Journal of Horticulture, Biology and Environment.

They concluded that the data obtained in the study, confirm that black and red currant represent a valuable source of different nutrients.

Black and red currants have rich mineral composition, especially potassium, calcium and magnesium.

In dried form they found significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and zinc in black currant berries.

According to a synopsis of a PhD study written by Michael Vagiri, black currants are a valuable source of bioactive compounds like vitamin C and polyphenols, acting as antioxidants, which can potentially protect against disorders such as cardiovascular events, cancer and other degenerative symptoms.

Vitamin C Content In Black, Red and White Currants

The Vitamin C content differs a lot in the different berries, if you want the most Vitamin C you should choose black currants!

This according to USDA food database.

fig 1. Vitamin C content in black, red, and white currants compared to oranges

Currants Are Easy To Grow Yourself

Currants grow on shrubs and are easy to grow. They are almost as common in gardens as strawberries. The bushes grow quite large.

Planting currants as a hedge around your house is quite popular. That's a great way to combine both a practical and a healthy food function in one.

Black currants is the most popular and most widely grown variety. After black currants, the red currants are the most popular and the white currants end up in a last place.

The white currants are, however, more sweet than their relatives, which makes them delicious to eat straight from the shrub.

The white currants have one more advantage from of the other two, birds and other hungry animals are not as interested in the white berries as in the colored ones.

Here's How You Can Grow Currants Yourself

Currants flourish in cool, moist, northern climates. Currants can be grown on most soils, but for a good harvest, the soil should not be too sandy or muddy.

When planting, be sure to set the individual plants about 1.2–1.5 meters (4–5 feet) apart in rows that are about 1.8–2.4 m (6-8 feet) apart. If you're making a hedge you can plant them a bit closer together.

Water a lot and cover the ground so that the moisture in the soil is preserved.

If you want to maximize the edible produce per acre, you can plant currant bushes under grapes, peaches, cherries, and pears as they have no trouble thriving in the shade.

As always, when it comes to berry bushes, be sure to prune them regularly to provide the greatest possible harvest.

What Are Black Currants And What Are Black Currants Good For?

Care Omnia Picture Of a cluster of black currants
Black Currants are our favourite!

The black currant has a unique flavor and its health benefits as a super berry are quite obvious.

It has a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, like polyphenols. It even has dietary fiber which makes it a healthy choice.

Black currant is a common sight in gardens. The berry has a high content of vitamin C.

You can also make liqueurs of black currants, such as creme de cassis, and it's used diligently as a spice in schnapps.

On the leaves, especially on the underside, but also on the berries themselves you'll find small yellowish brown glands that exudes their characteristic aromatic scent.

The berry is deep black, sweet and delicious. There is more than 50 different aroma substances in black currants!

The vitamin C content in black currants is very high.

During the Second World War, vitamin C deficiency occurred in large parts of the population in Europe, because of the difficulty to import and grow, for example, oranges.

Cultivation of black currents was promoted. As a result, the development of growing black currants increased rapidly. Which in turn gave brilliant results.

It's possible that people first grew the black currants for medical use.

Old texts describe how people didn't appreciate black currants at all. People said that the black currant tasted badly.

It was not until the sugar became cheaper and people could make juice and jam of them that the popularity of the berries increased.

Previously, in traditional medicine, blackcurrant juice was used as "strengthening medicine" and to prevent colds, among other things, like ease rheumatic disorders, joint pain and gout.

I suspect that not adding sugar made the juice taste so bad that it had to be called "medicine" for it to be sold at all...

Black currants contain antioxidants such as polyphenols that have showed the possibility to counteract stress and act anti-inflammatory.

The polyphenols have also been shown to be able to prevent certain forms of cancer cell growth and to inhibit certain eye diseases.

Twitter blue round logoFacebook blue round logoLinkedIn blue square logoTM

Black Currants Was And Still Is Banned In The US

By the end of the 19th century currants grew in the United States, at that time the currants were popular. But then suspicions arose that the berries could spread a disease to trees, which threatened the important timber industry.

All Ribes plants, for instance currants and gooseberries were banned . But it was the blackcurrants that got the hardest restrictions.

In 1966, they changed the legislation so that every state could decide for themselves whether or not to lift the ban. Many states removed the ban but there are still several states left where it's banned; Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio and Massachusetts.

Since the ban still exists, it has limited the production of currants nationally in the US for almost a century.

This has led to the unfortunate situation that black currants are relatively unknown in the United States.

It's been a slow come-back for the currant but it appears that the interest for both in the US and worldwide is trending upwards.

Care Omnia Chart Showing The Growing Interest For Black Currants In USA And Wordwide With The US Trend Not As Positive As Worldwide
You can clearly see a growing interest for black currants over time. US trend line is more flat compared to the worldwides but still positive.

If you are interested in reading more about black currants I can recommend you to read our two articles

What Are Red Currants And What Are Red Currants Good For?

Care Omnia Picture Of Red Currants
Red and Delicious!

Red currants are a collective name for garden currants and forest currants. Garden currants are primarily a cultivated species while the forest currants grow wild.

The species look the same with branches, flared leaves and deep red, sour berries.

However, you can also find garden currants in the wild as they spread quite easily.

Beside high levels of antioxidants and vitamins, red currants are also unusually rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Potassium is a mineral of major importance to all the cells of our body, especially for the muscle cells, for example, the heart.

Red currants contain high levels of acid, making them easy to preserve. The most common way to make use of red currants in the old times was to cook cream or juice.

Before the sugar became common, they often cooked the berries with flour to make porridge.

In traditional medicine, they've considered red currants to have soluble, chilling and antiseptic effects.

What Are White Currants And What Are White Currants Good For?

Care Omnia Picture Of White Currants
They might look bland, but are quite delicious

White currants are a mutation of the red currants where the red dye has faded.

This could make the white currants good for people who are overly sensitive (allergic) to colorants.

The white currant differs from red currants in color, which is translucent white and its more sweet taste.

White currants are sometimes mislabeled as Ribes glandulosum, which are skunk currants in the United States.

The skunk currants fruits are red and egg shaped. The name comes from the disagreeable odor given off by the ripe fruits. But they are okay to eat.

Currants are a favorite food for birds among other animals.

An advantage of white currants is that the birds perceive them as unripe and often leave them alone.

 Currants come in mainly three colors, black, red and white. You should consider adding them to your diet! Read more about them here. #HealthyBerries #HealthyFood #HealthyLiving 
Twitter blue round logo

How You Use Or Cook Black, Red and White Currants

Care Omnia Currant Jam In A Bowl
We like to mix black and red currants when making jam

All three currants are usually used in same ways. If you have a recipe with currants it doesn’t matter much which color of the berry you choose, or if you mix them together.

They differ somewhat in taste, but that's about it. You can of course eat them raw, but there's so much more you can do with currants! For instance, make a delicious jam or make a pie out of them. Delicious!

Black currants are delicious and good to eat as they are. They can be eaten raw but are usually cooked in a variety of sweet or savory dishes.

You might say that eaten fresh, black currants are an acquired taste.

Common uses for black currants include making jelly, juice or jam of them. The leaves are used for souse of, for example, cucumber. The leaves are also well suited to make tea from.

The red currants are sour and good to eat as they are. Common uses for them is in jam, pie, marmalade, jelly or juice. They're also nice as food decoration.

White currants are sweet and a bit sour and good to eat as they are. Common uses for them is in jam, juice or jelly.

Twitter blue round logoFacebook blue round logoLinkedIn blue square logoTM

Currants Are Well Suited For Freeze Storage

A great way to enjoy these summer berries throughout the year is to freeze them. The berries should be frozen when fresh, immediately after gathering them.

A tip is to freeze whole clusters so that you can eat them one by one. That way you won't end up with a mash of currants after they thaw.

You can also freeze the berries one by one but be careful to not mash them together. Especially red ones that you might want to use as decoration.

You can also freeze leaves. Then the leaves can be taken out and put in boiled water for tea to get currant flavor.

Conclusion: How We Consume Currants To Maintain Our Healthy Living

All three varieties of currants have positive health benefits but there are differences between the varieties. Nutritional content varies slightly from one variety to another, but they are all among the most nutritious berries you can find.

If you have currant bushes in your garden we suggest that you try to get all three of the common varieties.

That way you get the chance to experiment by mixing them in different ratios for an almost infinite variety of tastes from you own garden.

Care Omnia tip! You can mix all currant varieties!

Try the different varieties in your cooking! Recipes usually tell you to use one of the varieties but we've never come across a dish that you couldn't use the one or the other color.

The only real, but big, difference is that the white ones might be better for people who are sensitive (allergic) to colorants.

Please, for your own safety, if you know you are sensitive (allergic) to colorants, consult with your health professional before trying the white currants.

Better safe than sorry!

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

Author Image of Sara Niemelä

Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.