Posted in Kafevend Blog
Welcome back to the Kafevend blog- today we are carrying on our fruit series with a more familiar item than last week's chili pepper
: the blackcurrant. This berry is a popular one here in the UK, with some interesting history behind that relationship. Before we get into that however, let's delve further back and establish just what a blackcurrant is!
Trouble and strife
The blackcurrant is a type of shrub, growing up to about five feet tall- a fully developed bush can produce around ten pounds of blackcurrants each year. Native to Europe, these days Russia holds the lead for blackcurrant production and Europe as a whole produces the vast majority of the world's supply, with plenty grown in the more centrally located countries such as Germany and Poland. Blackcurrants prefer this more temperate climate, and are capable of surviving when the temperature gets a bit chilly!
Although they may not mind the cold, blackcurrants do have a habit of picking up some nasty diseases. One or two in particular are bad enough that growing blackcurrants is heavily restricted in some countries. For example, blackcurrants are unlikely to be found in North America, as one of the diseases also affects white pine. When blackcurrants were introduced to North America at the beginning of the 20th century, vast swathes of pine were ruined, resulting in the heavy control.
The blackcurrant's history is somewhat more positive here in Britain, even if the circumstances were less so. During WW2, fruits rich in Vitamin C became scarce here as the U-boat menace hindered shipping. With a keen eye on the nation's nutrition and the rationing effort
, there was a big push by the government to grow blackcurrants, as they are naturally high in Vitamin C. The initiative was a success, and by the latter half of the war, there was enough that children under the age of two were receiving free blackcurrant syrup to supplement their diet. It is possible this dependence on blackcurrants is why the flavour remains such a popular one in Britain to this day. The well known and popular brands Ribena and Vimto both feature blackcurrants- in fact, much of Britain's blackcurrant production goes into making the former.
As you might have guessed, there's at least one other good way to enjoy blackcurrants- as tea! Although the berries make an obvious choice, the leaves from the blackcurrant shrub are quite aromatic and can often be found alongside the berries in various teas. If you take a quick look online, you can see that we are spoilt for choice when it comes to blackcurrant tea; it looks like just about every company has their own version! One that caught our eye in particular is from Jing
, with whole blackcurrants, berries and hibiscus shells, which sounds like a great way to enjoy it. Alternatively, you could always have a go at making your own- this site
has an easy recipe to follow.