Blackcurrants grow mostly in temperate climate zones. They are cultivated primarily in Central and Eastern Europe and several Asian countries, however. They were first grown in gardens in Central Europe in the 18th century.
Blackcurrants belong to the Grossulariaceae family. The fruits grow on summer-green bushes, which can be distinguished from redcurrant bushes by virtue of their typical smell.
In terms of their health benefits, blackcurrants are among the most beneficial species of berries. In addition to their unusually high vitamin C content, they also contain a number of other valuable substances, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, pectin and anthocyanins. The latter are red, blue or purple pigments that form primarily in the outermost layers of the fruit, and protect the berries against high levels of UV radiation. The consumption of sufficient quantities of the fruit or its juice in the form of fruit beverages is believed to protect against oxidative stress.
The dark-purple colour of the berries is a by-product of the high anthocyanin content of the skin. Because of their high acid content, the fruits are seldom processed into pure fruit juice. Instead, they are used primarily to make more easily digestible fruit-juice drinks and smoothies.
Depending on the species, blackcurrants have either a moderately sweet and mild or a more tart, aromatic flavour. The sweeter, milder fruits are generally eaten fresh, whereas the tart, more acidic varieties are better suited for further processing.