BlackCurrant – Health Benefits of Black Currant

Revisado por Equipe Editorial a 13 janeiro 2018

Types and Varieties of Blackcurrants: The most important species of currant are blackcurrant (the species we are referring to), red, white and gooseberry, each one bearing a characteristic type of currant. Within each one of the species mentioned above we distinguish a great amount of varieties. Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) is a fruit of black colour and 12 mm of diameter, that ripens in clusters of 5-10 units. The skin is thin, often translucent, and a reddish, juicy, very aromatic pulp with a somewhat sweet taste. The main varieties of blackcurrants are distinguished by the size and taste of the fruit (sweet or acid). The most outstanding varieties are specially useful for jam processing, like ‘Boskoop Giant’, ‘ Wellington XXX’ and ‘ Baldwin’. 

The Plant 

Blackcurrants grow in clusters in shrubs not more than 1.5 m high. These shrubs, called black currants (Ribes nigrum. Saxifragaceae) are found in fresh and humid places of the mountainous areas, chiefly in forests, hedges growing along the rivers’ docks and high prairies of the N hemisphere which are not located to the south. These shrubs have multiple erect branches, with a smooth and clear bark in the youthful periods and rough and dark afterwards. The leaves form alternate bunches which are larger (10 cm) and darker than those of the red currant. The pentamerous flowers have a crowned calyx, containing the petals, which are joined together; they are white and they sometimes have a violet border. They have a peduncle and a hairy receptacle; they are gathered in separate clusters that hang from the axil of one year old buds. The flowers bloom in April-May in the N hemisphere. The fruit is a berry of globose shape, bright, black-blue colour, covered with hair, with a translucent pulp of a red or green tone, containing multiple small seeds. These berries are gathered in clusters of 5 to 10 fruits. They are tougher than red currants and ripen between July and August in the N hemisphere. Currants are well-adapted to harsh climate and land conditions. It is highly resistant to cold weather; early snow or frosts do not damage the plant’s yield. However, sometimes late frosts may cause necrosis of the flowers and the small fruit, putting the year’s output in danger, although not affecting the vitality of the plant. 

Origin and Production

Blackcurrants are native to the N hemisphere, mainly the most cold regions of Germany, England and France. According to data obtained from the FAO in 1998, the world-wide production of all types of currants amounted to 654.000t, distributed by continents in the following way:

  Continent    Thousand tons 
  Africa    0 
  Asia    0 
  Europe    651 
  North and Central America    0 
  Oceania    3 
  South America    0 
  Total    654 

 

Source: FAO Production Yearbook (1998)

The production of all types of currants is practically centred in Europe, with an annual production of 651,000 t, followed by Oceania with 3,000 t. These are the only continents producing currants.

 Two years later, that is to say, in 2000, the world-wide production of currants has remained within the same margins. According to data from the FAO, 613,188 t of currants were obtained in the world, a lower production than in 1998. The ten chief producers of currants in the world are shown in the following table:

  Country    Tons 
  Russia    208,000 
  Poland    145,000 
  Germany    140,000 
  Czech Rep.    22,792 
  Austria    19,537 
  Ukraine    18,500 
  United Kingdom    11,000 
  France    8,500 
  Hungary    8,000 
  Denmark    5,000 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (2000)

The leader in production is Russia (208,000 t), followed by Poland and Germany as the chief producers in 2000.

32,126 tons are imported world-wide, according to the FAO’s data of 1999. The distribution of imports by continents is shown in the table below:

  Continent    Tons 
  Africa    152 
  Asia    1 
  Europe    31,701 
  North and Central America    257 
  Oceania    2 
  South America    13 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999)

The continent with larger import of currants is Europe, that in 1999 imported 31,701 tons.

The main importer is in the first place Germany with 14,708t of currants. The ten first world-wide countries importing this fruit are classified in the following table:

  Country    Tons 
  Germany    14,708 
  Austria    9,589 
  Denmark    3,379 
  The Netherlands    2,547 
  Belgium-Luxembourg    515 
  France    287 
  United Kingdom    257 
  The United States of America    222 
  Switzerland    203 
  Ethiopia    137 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999)

Spain imported in 1999 twenty-five tons, which means the 14th position in the world-wide imports.

World-wide imports in 1999 amounted to 40,607 thousand dollars. Germany was the country with greater economic investment in its imports, followed by Austria and Denmark. The following table includes the ten first countries with greater capital investment in their imports.

  Country    Thousand dollars 
  Germany    16,544 
  Austria    10,398 
  Denmark    4,120 
  The Netherlands    2,757 
  France    1,281 
  The United States of America    1,248 
  Belgium-Luxembourg    1,615 
  United Kingdom    1,033 
  Switzerland    372 
  Spain    204 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999)

10,361 tons of currants of all types were exported in the world according to data from 1999 of the FAO. This table shows the exports of the different continents.

  Continent    Tons 
  Africa    247 
  Asia    6 
  Europe    9,918 
  North and Central America    135 
  Oceania    2 
  South America    50 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999)

The continent with greater amount of currants of all types exported in the world in 1999 was Europe, with 9,918 t.

The main exporters are, in the first place, the Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium-Luxembourg. The ten first world-wide exporters are included in the following table:

  Country    Tons 
  Czech Rep.    4,154 
  Germany    1,689 
  Belgium-Luxembourg    1,148 
  Austria    837 
  France    790 
  Denmark    588 
  The Netherlands    277 
  Zimbabwe    247 
  Ireland    222 
  The United States of America    135 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999)

The world-wide exports in 1999 totalled 13,844 thousand dollars. Spain invested 9 thousand dollars in its exports. The country with a larger investment in its exports was Belgium-Luxembourg, followed by the Czech Republic and Germany. The following table shows the ten first countries with greater capital intended for exports.

  Country    Thousand dollars 
  Belgium-Luxembourg    2,680 
  CzechRep.    2,598 
  Germany    2,275 
  The Netherlands    2,011 
  France    1,093 
  Austria    1,020 
  Denmark    836 
  Zimbabwe    550 
  Ireland    224 
  Italy    173 

 

Source: FAOSTAT Database Results (1999) 

Availability 

Cultivated in greenhouses, blackcurrants are available in the N hemisphere from May onwards. Otherwise, they are only found from mid June until the middle of August. Currants are summer fruits of short season. When purchasing them, we must choose the intact berries of intense colour. We can also buy frozen currants all the year round. The following table is an example of the dates of availability in the United Kingdom market, indicating the origin and the weight of the packages for the consumer and the number of packages in each box.

Origin    Availability in the United Kingdom markets    Weight of the packages 
  CHILE    December-January    12x125g 
  BELGIUM    June-August    8x125g 
            8x250g 
            8x500g 
  FRANCE    July-August    Various 
  HUNGARY    June-July    5kg 
  IRELAND    July    Various 
  NEWZEALAND    May-April    16x200g 
            12x200g 
            8x125g 
            8x200g 
            8x500g 
  POLAND    According to the market requirements    Various 
  PORTUGAL    April-June    8x125g 
  UNITEDKINGDOM    June-August    16x227g 

 

Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book (2001) 

Packaging 

Blackcurrants (and all types of currants in general) are usually sold in transparent plastic baskets containing 200 grams, with an articulated cover and an absorbent paper in the base, placed to soak up the liquid that could be released by the product and orifices for air circulation. It is marketed in very peculiar small trays that enable them to be served in the table without removing them from the package. There are also baskets of 125 g for a cheaper price. 

Regulation
There is no specific quality standard for currants, reason why they must keep the minimum quality requirements for any vegetable or fruit in general. The European generic standard applicable to the quality of fruit and vegetables is laid down by the regulation 362R0058 that can be consulted at the following internet address: (europa.eu.int/eur-lex/es/lif/dat/1962/es_362R0058.html) 

Quality Criteria 

Postharvest Atmosphere Management 

Currants are stored for 1-3 weeks in the fridge. Besides, they can be frozen in case we want to keep them for a longer period of time. If they are kept in the fridge, it is recommended not to wash them until they are eaten, since the excess of water content accelerates the microbial development. They can be frozen intact, with or without sugar.
 
Healthy Effects

Black currant, Ribes nigrum / Fam.: Saxifragaceae (Grossulariaceae)
   Note: Composition for 100 g. of fresh product
           Values in ( min. – max. ) format.
Energy: 28.00-39.43 kcal
Fats: 0.22-0.22 g
Fibres: 3.60-6.80 gMinerals Calcium: 46.00-60.00 mg
Zinc: 0.293-0.300 mg
Chlorine: 15.00-15.00 mg
Phosporus: 40.00-43.00 mg
Iron: 1.29-1.30 mg
Magnesium: 17.00-17.00 mg
Manganese: 0.300-0.336 mg
Potasium: 310.00-370.00 mg
Selenium: 1.70-1.70 µg
Sodium: 1.50-3.00 mg
Iodine: 1.00-1.00 µg
Proteins: 0.90-1.28 g
Carbohidrates: 6.11-6.60 gLiposoluble Vitamins A Retinol: 0.00-13.50 µg
A Carotenoids: 81.00-100.00 µg
E or Tocoferol: 1.00-2.65 mg

Hydrosoluble Vitamins

B1 or Thiamine: 0.030-0.051 mg
B2 or Riboflavine: 0.044-0.060 mg
B3 or Niacine: 0.30-0.30 mg
B5 or Pantothenic Acid: 0.400-0.400 mg
B6 or Piridoxine: 0.08-0.08 mg
B9 or Folic Acid: 16.00-16.00 µg
C or Ascorbic Acid: 177.00-200.00 mg

 

 

 

Health Benefits of Black Currant 

Blackcurrants deserves a special mention due to their high content of vitamin C, that satisfies to a great extent the recommended daily consumption. A daily consumption of 160 mg of vitamin C helps to reduce the incidence of cancer. The dark pigmentation of blackcurrants is due to the presence of lutein carotenoids, alpha and beta carotene. Carotenoids offer protection against heart diseases and different types of cancer, like lung and prostate cancer. Cancer can also be inhibited by the quercetin flavonoid, occurring in blackcurrants. 

Popular Tradition
Blackcurrants contain some properties which are similar to blueberries, having an opposite action to the loss of vision and used in pharmaceutical specialities intended for the alterations of the retina. Berries have pectins and mucilages consumed in juices diluted in water with a laxative, purifying and diuretic effect. The pulp applied on burned skin is used as a treatment. The currant’s leaves are highly rich in tannin and used to prepare anti-diarrhoeic and diuretic infusions. The leaves also exert an important anti-inflammatory action on arthrosis and rheumatism in general, free from the gastric disadvantages of traditional medicine. Thus, the anti-inflammatory effect, along with the diuretic action and the capacity to remove the organism’s remainders, enables it to be recommended in case of gout. 

Nutrition and Eating
Currants offer several positive benefits for our organism, although there are significant differences in the properties of each type of berry. They are recommended in slimming diets since they provide with a small caloric content; 29.25 kcal for each 100 grams of currants.

Blackcurrants have a great content in potassium and it is recommended in case of hypertension thanks to its diuretic effect.