European blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum
Blackcurrant is a native species in Finland, and was originally founded on flooded land and in other moist conditions. The leaves have a strong scent, which is useful for distinguishing it from redcurrant when the plant is not in fruit.
The berries, leaves and branches of blackcurrants can be used. Apart from the distinctive scent and berries, the plant can also be identified by the yellow and fragrant resinous papillae on the underside of the leaves. Clean and young blackcurrant leaves can be used just as they are in salads, for example, or as flavouring for pickled gherkins or juices. The branches can be cooked along with the leaves to make tea, and the berries have many uses both fresh and in preserves.
Something to try
Blackcurrant leaf drink (this recipe was provided by Louhisaari Manor in the Masku region of Southwest Finland)
1 kg sugar
80 g dried (or about 800 g fresh) blackcurrant leaves
10 l of boiling-hot water
15 g fresh yeast
Wash the lemons carefully.
Finely grate the yellow part of the lemon rind.
Add the grated lemon rind to the sugar and mix.
Add the juice of both lemons to the sugar and stir,
then add the dried blackcurrant leaves and continue stirring.
Put the mixture into a large pot, and add the 10 litres of boiling-hot water. Cover the pot with a lid.
When the water has cooled to room temperature, add the yeast. Allow the juice to ferment overnight.
The next day, pour the juice through a fine sieve and bottle it. Louhisaari Manor’s blackcurrant drink is ready to be enjoyed after about one week. Keep it in a cool place.
Gathering the plants
Most of the blackcurrant bushes that grow in the wild nowadays are cultivated plants that have gone wild. Genuinely wild blackcurrants plants can be distinguished by their berries, which are smaller than those of the cultivated variety.
The authentic wild blackcurrant bushes can be found in groves near the shore, alongside streams, and in spruce forests. Blackcurrant leaves and stems can be picked throughout the growing season. However, don’t pick large amounts of leaves or branches from the same bush, so as not to damage the bush. Damaged bushes produce fewer berries.
Other interesting facts
Blackcurrant is a Finnish superfood. There is more vitamin C in blackcurrant berries and leaves than in oranges. The berries also contain more vitamin E than blueberries do. They also contain flavonoids, which amongst effects strengthen the veins. Research has been carried out on the potential of blackcurrant for treating atopic dermatitis (at the University of Turku), and on brain and eye health (at the University of Kuopio).
Only pick clean and healthy green leaves. Blackcurrant leaves are often contaminated with powdery mildews, so when picking be sure to avoid any unhealthy-looking leaves.