BLACKCURRANT ( RIBES NIGRUM): HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF BLACKCURRANT: HOW TO MAKE BLACKCURRANT SORBET RECIPE
Blackcurrants are members of the rose family as are plums, apricots and peaches, and are native to Central and Northern Europe and Asia. In Russia they are used to flavour vodka and in the UK they proved to be especially valuable during the Second World War when citrus fruits were unobtainable. Blackcurrant juice was given free to children to prevent an outbreak of scurvy, and Ribena the popular blackcurrant cordial first went on to the market there in 1936. Blackcurrants have always been popular in Britain and many families grew them in their gardens and allotments. In the US they were banned from most states in the early 1900s as they were host to a disease, “white pine blister rust” which was a threat to the lucrative timber industry. New York State only lifted the ban in 2003, other states did not all follow suit.
The 16th century English herbalist, John Gerard, was rather scathing about blackcurrants as he was about coriander, writing that they were “of a stinking and somewhat loathing savour”. They can be steeped in brandy to make a liqueur similar to cherry brandy, and have been used in folk medicine in Britain since the Middle Ages. They have been used to treat urinary problems, and are diuretic, and promote sweating during fevers or hot weather. They are good for sore throats in a gargle which can be made from the fruit or the leaves or a mixture of both. A decoction of the stem bark has been used to stop the build up of calculus around the joints, so the plant is useful to treat arthritis. The juice from the fruit is useful for sore throats and one remedy is to mix blackcurrant juice, a little honey and the juice of a lemon to cure sore throats and help to get rid of the common cold.
Blackcurrants have very potent antioxidant properties which are known to help prevent heart disease and some cancers as well as other diseases. They contain anthocyanins which are responsible for the dark colour of these berries. These also help to reduce swelling and inflammation and are a natural substitute for such pain relievers as Ibuprofen and aspirin. It is believed that anthocyanins can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, as well as heart disease and cancer. Compared with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries they are the most nutritious and have most potent antioxidant activities, so they really are “superfruits”. They contain 4 times more vitamin C (comparing weight) than an orange, and twice as much potassium as a banana. They contain Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MOI) which are believed to fight depression. Blackcurrants contain some B-complex vitamins and apart from vitamin C also contain vitamins A and E, so like whinberries and carrots, they are good for the eyesight and help to prevent night blindness and macular degeneration. As for minerals they are rich in potassium, iron, and calcium as well as containing phosphorous, manganese, zinc, copper and manganese. They also contain bioflavonoids and so do the leaves in particular myristicin, kaempferol and quercetin. Cassis polysaccharide is also present in the fruit (CAPS) and this is believed to be toxic to cancerous tumour cells. Studies are still underway on their efficacy against cancer. CAPS also reduce the effects of arthritis.
The oil from blackcurrant seeds is used for skin disorders when taken internally, and it boosts the immune system. Blackcurrants are good for menopausal symptoms and also for painful menstruation and to reduce PMS / PMT.
Blackcurrant leaves are useful dried, you should harvest them as the fruit starts to appear, and used in tisanes with the dried fruit or alone. The tisane is rather like green tea and has potent antioxidant properties. It is a useful diuretic and can promote sweating as well as lowering blood pressure. You can also use the tisane on cuts which have been slow to heal or make a poultice with the leaves by bruising them and placing in a pan with a little water, then putting them in a muslin cloth and onto wounds to cleanse them. The tisane can also be used a s a gargle for sore throats or for sore mouths, as it can stop bleeding gums and is useful for oral hygiene. It is believed that and infusion of the leaves and dried berries increases the secretion of cortisol in the adrenal glands, which is useful in stress-related illnesses. You can use the leaves either dried or fresh, and need 2 tsps of fresh or 1 tsp dried leaves chopped, and let them steep for 20 minutes in 250 mls boiling water. You can sweeten with honey to taste if you wish, or add fruit to the infusion. If you use dried fruit and leaves you should put 1 tsp of dried blackcurrants and 2 tsps dried chopped leaves into a pan with 250 mls water and slowly bring this to the boil. When it boils, leave it to steep for ½ an hour before straining and drinking.
For a healthy, refreshing summer drink, blend 20 gr each of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries together with 100 mls red grape juice.
You can make jam or blackcurrant jelly with blackcurrants, but this is a good recipe for a cooling summer dessert. It takes time, as it needs to freeze, so start it the day before you want to serve it.
9 ozs fresh blackcurrants, trimmed
4 ozs sugar ½ pint water plus 2 tbsps extra
2 tsps lemon juice
½ tsp gelatine
1 egg white, whisked to stiff peaks
Put the sugar in a pan with ½ pint of water and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil for 10 minutes to make a sugar syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
Put the blackcurrants into a pan with the lemon juice and heat gently for 10 minutes until the fruit has softened.
Cool a little then purée. Strain through a sieve.
Sprinkle the gelatine over 2 tbsps of water in a heatproof bowl and leave for about 5 minutes until it gets spongy. Then place the bowl in a pan of gently simmering water and heat for 1-2 mins stirring occasionally until the gelatine dissolves.
Stir the gelatine into the cooled sugar syrup. Then stir this into the blackcurrant purée and mix well.
Turn the mixture into a rigid container and put into the freezer, uncovered for 3 hours until the mixture around the sides has started to set.
Remove from the freezer and break up with a fork. Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks and fold into the blackcurrant mixture with a metal spoon.
Cover the container and leave to freeze overnight.
Remove it from the freezer about 30 minutes before you want to serve the sorbet so that it is easy to scoop out and put into individual glasses or bowls.
This has Taste and is a Treat.