A Wealth of Health

Legalizing Forbidden Fruit is Farmer’s Currant Mission

Posted by The Washington Post - Washington, D.C. via https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Greg Quinn heard enough gripes from fellow farmers in New York’s Hudson Valley about souring milk prices and how a cold snap devastated apple crops to start him thinking about farming something else. So, he’s investing in what he hopes will be the New York equivalent of the next Idaho potato or Florida orange: a deep purple berry called the black currant.

“This is the first crop to come along in over a half-century that can provide New York farmers with a viable alternative to many of the crops that are now unprofitable,” he said.

Quinn had tasted black currants in European jams, vodkas and teas. He heard a local Hudson Valley vintner vex about having to import black currants from Canada to make cassis. He couldn’t understand how a product with more antioxidants than blueberries couldn’t have attracted a following.

But Quinn soon learned that a 92-year-old federal law prevents farmers from raising black currants because of fears they spread a disease called blister rust to white pine trees. Maine, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have kept these bans.

The New York legislature last month unanimously passed a bill reintroducing the berry in the state; it awaits the governor’s signature.

This summer Quinn expects to help other farmers expand into the market — as well as reap his own first crop of a currently legal but less flavorful currants. He also plans to start growing newer black currant varieties.

“My goal ultimately,” Quinn said, “is to have the New York black currants become the standard by which all others are judged.”

— Christine Haughney