Sadly, currants do not seem to get the respect and admiration that they deserve. However, in Europe, their love for currants is like our love for blackberries or raspberries. In fact, the purple candy in a bag of Skittles® is flavored grape in the U.S., but tastes like black currant in the U.K. Why is there a resistance to loving this berry, you ask?
Years ago, a federal ban prohibited the growing of all members of the genus Ribes, including currants and gooseberries. This was because gooseberries and currants can serve as alternate hosts to white pine blister rust, a destructive disease attacking pine trees. However, in 1966 the ban was lifted in most states, and plant breeders have since developed more disease-resistant varieties. Yet, currants haven't made much of a comeback. They're still not widely available in the U.S., but their tart spicy flavor is uniquely enjoyable. Add to oatmeal or use them in a fruit salad. Puree them to make a dressing or sauce. Throw them in a smoothie, or take advantage of their natural pectin to make jelly or jam.
Currants can be of red, white or black variety, each offering a slightly different tart flavor. Currants are a good source of fiber and rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. While finding currants in the store, other than dried currants, is highly unlikely, you can pick your very own currants for free at the Refuge Food Forest located at 701 E. Lincoln Street in Normal near One Normal Plaza Park. This collaboration between University of Illinois Extension and the Town of Normal includes 1.4 acres of organic produce! You can visit anytime, but I invite you to come out on August 28 from 6-7 p.m. to see my fellow educators and I give you a tour and talk about ways you can use the produce found at the Food Forest while saving money. Register for this free program by visiting, go.illinois.edu/registerlmw.
Black Currant Banana Smoothie (Printable PDF)
½ cup nonfat milk
1 frozen banana
½ cup black currants
½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons honey
Pour all ingredients into a blender. Puree until smooth, adding more milk if necessary to reach desired consistency. Pour in glasses and serve.
Yield: 2 servings, 6 ounces each
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 150 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 45 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 9 grams protein