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The German name "Johannisbeere" (Berry of St. John) was probably given by the monks who, in the fourteenth century, started reaping the first mature black currants on the day of St. John, during the later part of June. The ancestors of today's cultivated cranberries are wild varieties from northeastern Europe and Asia, with very long stems. Today, the bright colored berries are grown in both temperate and cold areas. The berries are very delicate and, once mature, should not be left on the plant for a long time to plant as the juicy fruits would otherwise burst and the ripe berries dry out.
We now know of 50 different varieties of currants, differentiated primarily by their color: red, pink, yellowish, white and green, black. Redcurrant: This variety is the most important for the fresh fruit market. They taste sour and bitter. White currant: these translucent silver&gold colored berries are an “albino” variant of the red currant. They are not as sour as the other varieties, but they are rather sweet and delicate. Blackcurrant: they look very much like blueberries and are very popular in England where they are called "black currant". In France they are called "Cassis", a name known by many in association with the famous liquor. The black currant has a tougher and more transparent peel. The juicy flesh has a pleasant aroma and a sour, bitter and aromatic taste.
From a physiological and nutritional point of view black currants are superior to other varieties. They have particularly high contents of minerals and vitamins. Vitamin C, found in quantities of 180 mg to 100 g, is three times higher than that found in the lemon, with 53 mg to 100 g. The prevailing minerals in all varieties are potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Of all the berries, currants have the highest concentration of fruit acid (sour taste) and contain a lot of pectin, used to prevent indigestion.