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The Zante currant (in the United States), or currant (in other English-speaking countries) are dried berries of small, sweet, seedless grape variety Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera). The name comes from the Anglo-French phrase “raisins de Corinthe” (raisins of Corinth)[1] and the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante), which was once the major producer and exporter. It is not related to black, red or white currants, which are berries of shrubs in the Ribes genus.


The currant is one of the oldest known raisins. The first written record was in 75 AD by Pliny the Elder, who described a tiny, juicy, thick-skinned grape with small bunches. The next mention is a millennium later, when the raisins became a subject of trade between Venetian merchants and Greek producers from Ionian coasts. In the 14th century, they were sold in the English market under the label Reysyns de Corauntz, and the name raisins of Corinth was recorded in the 15th century, after the Greek harbor which was the primary source of export. Gradually, the name got corrupted into currant. However, by the 17th century, the trade shifted towards the Ionian islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante), after which it was named Zante currant.[2]

The first attempts to introduce the Black Corinth in the United States date back to 1854. The first successful vineyards of White and Red Corinth (related varieties), were established in California in 1861, by Colonel Agoston Haraszthy. Around 1901, David Fairchild of USDA imported high-quality Black Currant cuttings from Greek village of Panariti, a renowned producer, establishing first commercial crops. However, the American production remained modest because of higher popularity of Thompson Seedless, up to 1920s and 1930s, when its popularity increased, due to higher prices and improved cultivation practices (girdling). The plantings reached 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) by 1936, which is approximately its current level.[2]


Black Corinth grape variety is probably of ancient Greek origin.

In wild grapes, the species is dioecious; the sexes grow on separate vines with male flowers on one plant, and female flowers on another. Black Corinth is an “almost male” variety in that the flowers have well-developed anthers (male), but only tiny underdeveloped ovaries (female).[3]

Clusters of Black Corinth are small, averaging 0.4 pounds (0.18 kg), ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 pounds. They are cylindrical, with prominent shoulder or winged. The berries are very small (0.35–0.6 grams), round, of reddish black color. Skin is very thin, and the flesh is juicy and soft. It is practically seedless, except in occasional large berry. When dried, raisins weigh 0.09–0.14 grams, and receive dark brown or black color. Leaves are medium-sized, heart-shaped and oblong. They are five-lobed with deep sinuses. [2]


To yield sufficient fruit, Black Corinth grapes need to be carefully managed. In ancient times, girdling was a standard practice to increase the set and size of seedless grapes, until the discovery of the plant hormone gibberellic acid, and its ability to do the same thing with less labor. Historically, Black Corinth stock was probably kept for its pollen-producing abilities, so other female flowered varieties (with naturally higher yields) would set full crops.[3]

The Black Corinth variety is also reputed to be very prone to powdery mildew and susceptible to numerous other diseases, such as downy mildew and black rot.[3]

Greece is still the primary producer of currants, amounting to about 80% of total world production, with California, South Africa and Australia sharing most of the remainder.[2]

Culinary use

Zante currants are very small and intensely flavoured. They can be eaten raw, especially when ripe, when they are sweet to the taste. They may also be referred to as table grapes for this purpose. More commonly, they are used for making raisins, and occasionally, wine. When dried, they are often called “dried currants”[citation needed] or just “currants”, and in this form are used in cooking, especially baking and are a major ingredient in currant slice (or currant square) and currant cake. Unlike blackcurrants, Zante currants are not a significant source of vitamin C.[4]

In the United Kingdom, they are usually called simply “currants”, and often are used in scones, currant buns, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mincemeat. They are sometimes sold mixed with raisins and sultanas as “mixed dried fruit”.

The fresh fruit is often marketed under the name “Champagne grapes” in U.S. specialty stores, but despite the name, they are not used for making Champagne.

Zante Currants
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,184 kJ (283 kcal)
Carbohydrates 74 g
– Sugars 67 g
– Dietary fiber 7 g
Fat 0.3 g
Protein 4 g
Calcium 86.0 mg (9%)
Iron 3.3 mg (25%)
Potassium 892.0 mg (19%)
Sodium 8.0 mg (1%)
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Written on June 20th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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