Are they Raisins or Currants?
What’s in a Name?
Currants, Black Currants, Blackcurrants, Zante currants, there’s much confusion about what to call our favorite little berry here in the U.S. and around the world. So many questions. Are Currants and Black currants the same? Are Black Currants and Blackcurrants the same? Do Blackcurrants or Black Currants have anything to do with Zante currants? There’s also a lot of different stories about how this all came about, so as the official Currant website for all things “Currant” we’d like to set the record straight.
One story, with many variations, which is simply copied from article to article without any research, claims that those little raisins were originally called currants by the Greeks for many years because they came from Corinth and the names sounded alike.
The Greeks never actually called their raisins “currants.” Blackcurrants or currants are not Greek words. The Greek work for raisin is Σταφίδες or stafides in the Latin alphabet.
The real story is that when the Greeks began to export the small dried grapes (raisins), from the Ionian Islands of Ζάκυνθος (Zakýnthos) and Κόρινθος (Kórinthos or Corinth), the Greek writing on the sides of the boxes of the first shipment was mistranslated from Zankynthos – Korinthos to Zante Currants.
Since the growing of the real currants had been banned for many years in the U.S. and few Americans knew what real Currants were any more, the name stuck and we now have 80+ years of cookbooks telling us to put a half cup of Zante currants, or more commonly the abbreviated “currants,” in our scones and soda bread when what they really mean is the special seedless, mini-raisin made from black Corinthian grapes.
Originally, English speaking countries such as England, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand grew black and red currants. There are also sub-cultivars which are white, pink and even green. The black currant variety became the most popular variety because of its uniquely intense tart flavor and incredible health benefits. It wasn’t long that the black currant became so popular it was thought of a distinct from its colorful cousins and the name “Blackcurrant” emerged as a single type of berry. In the U.S. we still use the separated name “Black Currant” as well as Red Currant or White Currant and often, just Currant which causes some confusion with the misnamed raisins.
Zante currants have become part of the English vernacular and have come to be accepted to identify the Greek raisins. Calling raisins just “currants,” however, is improper and misleading. The most egregious mistake made by some food producers and writers alike is to call a raisin of any type, a black currant.
Raisins (dried grapes) and Black Currants are entirely different fruits from very different botanical families. Grapes belong to the genus Vitus and Currants belong to the genus Ribes. Raisins have some phytonutrients, most notably boron but raisins contain fewer phenols than grapes since many of grape’s phenols are largely lost in the conversion of grapes to raisins through the grape drying process.
True Black Currants are amazing!