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The Benefits of Black Currants

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 2 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Blackcurrants; Vitamin C; Anti-oxidants;

A study carried out by the Journal of Science Food and Agriculture has recently found that the ordinary British blackcurrant is jam-packed with not just vitamin C but anti-oxidant compounds that may aid in the prevention of developing dementia. Derivatives from the British blackcurrant are now being formulated into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers are also developing ways of increasing the vitamin C content of the berries, so that we can all enjoy a healthy diet without the need for taking additional supplements. Most people are unaware that blackcurrants, weight for weight, have a higher vitamin C content than an orange.

Blackcurrants have been around in the UK from around the 17th century and one of the most beneficial berries you can eat due to their high content of anthocyanins, which gives them their dark colour. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that give red, blue and purple fruits their colour. The shade of pigment varies due to the pH level.

Scientists are now even exploring whether the common blackcurrant aids in the treatment of a urinary tract infection to the same degree as the cranberry (16th century Germans were widely using blackcurrants as a treatment for kidney stones), and preliminary research has so far shown that consumption of blackcurrants can increase insulin production by up to 50%, it is not known however, what quantity of blackcurrant consumption provides this boost.

Traditional herbalists have valued blackcurrants for their medicinal usage for many years, with knowledge of people in the Middle Ages commonly using blackcurrants as a household remedy for minor ailments; they can be a useful remedy for diarrhoea, tonsillitis, whooping cough and gum disease. Manufacturers now regularly use blackcurrant to flavour medicines and throat lozenges, though the amount per dose is normally negligible.

Adding Blackcurrants to your Diet

Adding to part of the 5-a-day initiative, which aims to increase the overall health of the nation, try incorporating these highly nutritious and valuable berries into your daily intake.

Traditionally used in jams and pies, modern usage can see the common blackcurrant complementing salads with a generous sprinkling over the top. Enjoy the contrasting taste of sweetness and sharpness unique to this delicious fruit, try with avocado or with tuna to get a real taste sensation.

Adults could try fermenting their own alcoholic beverages from the berries, and the syrup version called cassis has become increasingly popular over recent years. Add a little to some wine and sparkling water to create your own cocktail; ideal in the garden to accompany a barbeque.

Children can enjoy the benefits of blackcurrants in desserts if they are not keen on salads. Why not try mixing with natural yoghurt with some crunched up ginger biscuits for a tasty and colourful dessert. If they are put off by the pips, reduce the berries down in a saucepan, add some sugar and a little water to get a versatile puree that can be used as a base for many summer puddings.

Some supermarkets tend to retain quite high prices for these delicious little berries, so why not try growing your own.

Types of Blackcurrants

There are three main types; Ben Gairn, Ben Hope and Titania. Ben Gairn are best produced in early season and are the original blackcurrant. Ben Hope are best produced in mid-season and have a very good all round taste. Finally, the Titania variety, which also is best picked in mid-season, produce larger berries with good taste.

Most varieties grow well in full sunshine, though partial daily shade should do them no harm. It is important to use good quality compost and watering and feeding regimes are essential in order to create a good crop.

Blackcurrants are ready for picking when the berries are almost black. Avoid harvesting in wet or even damp conditions as this can spoil their storage ability.

There seems to be an inexhaustible list of reasons why we should be going bananas for blackcurrants, so go on, what are you waiting for?

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