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Blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum, (Phalsa or Falsa) (Urdu: فالسہ ) is a temperate fruit crop native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia, and is widely cultivated both commercially and domestically for its abundant berries. It is less well-known in the USA where it has been subject to restrictions for much of the 20th century.

It is a medium sized shrub, growing to 1–2 m tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3–5 cm long and broad, and palmate with five lobes, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 4–6 mm diameter, with five reddish-green to brownish petals; they are produced in racemes 5–10 cm long.

When not in fruit, all parts of the plant are strongly aromatic, with the familiar blackcurrant fragrance. In midsummer the green fruit ripens to an edible berry up to 1cm in diameter, very dark purple in colour, almost black, with a glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex, and containing several seeds dense in nutrients (notably Vitamin C). An established bush can produce up to 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of fruit.

Plants from Asia are sometimes distinguished as a separate variety, Ribes nigrum var. sibiricum, or even as a distinct species Ribes cyathiforme.


There are many cultivars of blackcurrant, including: Amos Black, Ben Alder, Ben Avon, Ben Dorain, Ben Gairn, Ben Hope, Ben Loyal, Ben More, Ben Tirran, Ben Zona, Big Ben, Boskoop Giant, Cotswold Cross and Wellington XXX. The varieties Ben Connan, Ben Lomond and Ben Sarek have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit[2].

New varieties are being developed continually to improve frost tolerance, disease resistance, machine harvesting, fruit quality, nutritional content and fruit flavour.[3] Two new releases from a black currant breeding program in British Columbia, Canada – Blackcomb and Tahsis – were selected for their immunity to White Pine Blister Rust and frost tolerance.[4]

Varieties producing green fruit, less strongly flavoured and sweeter than typical blackcurrants, are cultivated in Finland, where they are called “greencurrants” (viherherukka).[5]


Pre-plant preparation It is important that there is complete weed eradication for one season before planting. The use of herbicides for broadleaf weeds and grass is recommended. Additionally the soil should be tested for nematodes; fumigation may be recommended for areas with a significant presence of virus vector nematodes.

Growers should assess general fertility of planting site (e.g. nutrients, pH) to ensure the site meets the recommended planting conditions as outlined in the corresponding growers’ guide (www.berrycrops.net). Manage crop requirements with annual soil sample indicating raspberries as the crop being tested (nobody will know the requirements for Ribes); Amend pH to 6 – 6.5.

Access to adequate irrigation and drainage are very important to consider before planting.

Pest controls – See BC Currant and gooseberry pest control guide or extension agents for approved controls

Weed control – Growers can use organic mulch (including sawdust and straw), heavy plastic with an organic mulch cover, or landscape fabric as means of suppressing weed growth. If chemical herbicides are to be used, check with Agriculture Extension people to ensure the use of registered and appropriate substances.

Pruning – annual pruning of old wood and shoots that are less than ~45 degrees to the ground is critical to crop management and machine harvest. Often if pruning of leaning shoots is neglected, the weight of the fruit they bear will bring them to the ground where the fruit will rot or be damaged. Pruning can be done by hand or mechanically.


Ribes plants are susceptible to an array of diseases, including white pine blister rust and mildew. There are, however, new varieties being developed, or have already been developed, to overcome some of these diseases.

Reversion (mainly blackcurrants) causes a decline in yield, and is quite widespread in Europe (but rarely on other continents). It often goes unnoticed by private gardeners. It is not related to the recognised botanical process of reversion, but is a virus carried by the Blackcurrant gall mite Cecidophyopsis ribis. Symptoms include a modification of leaf shape in summer, and swollen buds (“Big bud”) often carrying thousands of microscopic mites, appearing in winter. While pest control has limited effectiveness, severely infected bushes should be destroyed. All new plants purchased should be certified as virus-free[6].

White Pine Blister Rust – immunity: Tahsis, Blackcomb (BC breeding program – MBC) Mildew – resistance: Whistler, Blackcomb, Tahsis, Nechako

Currant and gooseberry leaf spot (Drepanopeziza ribis) is another disease, but it is not usually a serious problem for most varieties developed through prominent breeding programs.


The blackcurrant has been in domestic cultivation in Europe for up to 500 years. Its medicinal properties have been noted in various herbals. During World War II, most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of vitamin C and blackcurrant plants are suitable for growing in the UK climate, blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the British government. Soon, the yield of the nation’s crop increased significantly. From 1942 on, almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup (or cordial) and distributed to the nation’s children free, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavourings in Britain.

During the 20th century in Europe much hybridisation work has been carried out, in order to reduce the plant’s susceptibility to disease and frost, also to increase yields. This effort centred especially on Russia, Sweden and Scotland, where the popular series of “Ben” cultivars was developed by the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Latterly, New Zealand has become an important centre for research and development, as its temperate climate is beneficial to cultivation[7].

United States

Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry.[8] The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon.[9][10] However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine[11] and New Hampshire.[12]

Since the American federal ban curtailed currant production nationally for nearly a century, the fruit remains largely unknown in the United States, and has yet to regain its previous popularity to levels enjoyed in Europe or New Zealand. Owing to its unique flavour and richness in polyphenols, dietary fibre and essential nutrients, awareness and popularity of blackcurrant is once again growing, with a number of consumer products entering the market.

Nutrients and phytochemicals

The fruit has extraordinarily high vitamin C content (302% of the Daily Value per 100 g, table), good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B5, and a broad range of other essential nutrients (nutrient table, right).

Other phytochemicals in the fruit (polyphenols/anthocyanins) have been demonstrated in laboratory experiments with potential to inhibit inflammation mechanisms suspected to be at the origin of heart disease, cancer, microbial infections or neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.[13][14] Major anthocyanins in blackcurrant pomace are delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside[15] which are retained in the juice concentrate among other yet unidentified polyphenols.[16][17]

Blackcurrant seed oil is also rich in many nutrients, especially vitamin E and several unsaturated fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.[18] In a human pilot study, ingestion of blackcurrant seed oil by mothers reduced atopic dermatitis in their breast-fed newborns who were supplemented with the oil over two years.[19]

Culinary uses

The fruit can be eaten raw, but its strong, tart flavour requires sweetening to be palatable. It is usually cooked with sugar to produce a puree, which can then be sieved in muslin to make juice. The puree can be used in jam, jelly, cheesecake, yogurt, ice cream, sorbet, and many other dishes both sweet and savoury. The juice forms the basis for various popular cordials and alcoholic beverages.

In the UK, blackcurrant cordial is often mixed with cider (hard cider) to make a drink called “Cider and Black” or if made with the popular British cider Strongbow a “Bow and Black”. If made with any common British lager beer, it is known as a “Lager and Black”. The addition of blackcurrant to a mix of cider and lager results in “Diesel” or “Snakebite and Black” available at pubs. Adding a small amount of blackcurrant juice to Guinness is preferred by some to heighten the taste of the popular stout. Macerated blackcurrants are also the primary ingredient in the apéritif crème de cassis. Japan imports $3.6 million of New Zealand blackcurrants for uses as dietary supplements, snacks, functional food products and as quick-frozen (IQF) produce for culinary production as jams, jellies or preserves.[20] In Russia, blackcurrant leaves may be used for flavouring tea or preserves. Sweetened vodka may also be infused with blackcurrant leaves or berries, making a deep yellowish-green beverage with a sharp flavour and astringent taste.

Besides being juiced and used in jellies, syrups, and cordials, blackcurrants are also used in cooking because their astringency creates flavour in many sauces, meat dishes, and desserts.

It was once thought that currants needed to be “topped and tailed” (the flower remnants and the stalks removed) before cooking.[citation needed] This is not the case, though, as these parts are easily assimilated during the cooking process. If one prefers, the whole blackcurrant stem and fruit can be frozen, then shaken vigorously. The tops and tails will break off, and the fruit can then be easily separated.

Ribena, a non-carbonated soft drink flavored with blackcurrants, takes its name from Ribes.


Blackcurrant berries have a distinctive sweet and sharp taste popular in jam, juice, ice cream, and liqueur (see Ribena). They are a common ingredient of Rødgrød, a popular kissel-like dessert in North German and Danish cuisines. In the UK, Europe and Commonwealth countries, some types of confectionery include a blackcurrant flavour, and in Belgium and the Netherlands, cassis is a flavoured currant soft drink. In the United States, blackcurrant flavour is rather rare in candies and jellies compared to UK sweets. In the United States, grape flavour is often used in brands of candy where blackcurrant would appear in Europe. Blackcurrant liqueur mixed with white wine is called Kir or Kir Royale when mixed with Champagne.

currants, European black, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 264 kJ (63 kcal)
Carbohydrates 15.4 g
Fat 0.4 g
Protein 1.4 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.05 mg (4%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.05 mg (4%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.3 mg (2%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.398 mg (8%)
Vitamin B6 0.066 mg (5%)
Vitamin C 181 mg (218%)
Calcium 55 mg (6%)
Iron 1.5 mg (12%)
Magnesium 24 mg (7%)
Phosphorus 59 mg (8%)
Potassium 322 mg (7%)
Zinc 0.27 mg (3%)
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Written on June 20th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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