Tart and sweet at the same time, with an astringent quality that makes my mouth pucker slightly even though the berries are juicy, red currants are visually delightful as well as tasty.
These are another fruit just in the marketplace for a brief period, even though depending on climate and geography they tend to have a longish growing season. Red currants can be found as a culinary specialty in a wide variety of cultures around the globe. Countries like Germany, Austria, France, the U.K, Russia, even Mexico all have specialty dishes featuring the jewel like red currant. Interestingly, in the U.S. growing redcurrants (or any currant for that matter) was banned in the 1900’s. Their leaves were perfect breeding ground for a fungal disease that attacks white pines. The federal ban on cultivating them was lifted in 1966, however there are still states today that prohibit planting and cultivation. Maybe this is one reason it is challenging to find them in the U.S. marketplace.
From a culinary perspective, red currants are tart and astringent, with a hint of sweet, especially if they are fully ripened. They can be eaten raw, tossed in salads and other dishes, turned into jams, jellies, spreads, syrups and liqueurs. They are delicious in baked goods, custards, and tarts.
From a health perspective, red currants are a wealth of antioxidants and polyphenols. They are a good source of vitamin C and quercetin. Several studies have demonstrated that of all the berries (gooseberry, black currant, cranberry) red currant has the highest chlorogenic acid and anthocyanin content, making them highly beneficial for managing blood glucose levels, maintaining liver health, decreasing oxidative stress and systemic inflammation as well as contributing to vision and eye health.
If you're lucky enough to find red currants in your marketplace while they are in season...I say, grab a bunch and see what you can create to tempt your palate.