Currant bushes are a great addition to the edible landscape. Here’s how I grow them in my landscape and use the currants in the kitchen.
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Currant bushes (Ribes) are thornless understory shrubs, growing in USDA hardiness zones 3-8. They can grow 3-6 feet wide and tall, and can range in color from red, white, pink, or black. There is even a clove currant (Ribes odoratum), which is very fragrant.
All currants have attractive flowers and maple-like leaves that make them desirable in the edible landscape. They can be planted in the understory of a permaculture food forest or hedgerow. They are one of many perennial crops that can tolerate moist areas.
- Currant Bushes: Edible Landscaping for Shady Areas
- 8 Ways to Grow Currant Bushes in the Landscape
- Pretty in the Edible Landscape
- Yield of Currant Bushes
- Harvesting Currants
- Pests and Diseases of Currant Bushes
- Taste and Uses
- Currant Shrubs: Learn How To Grow Currants In Gardens
- What are Currants?
- How to Grow Currants
- Care of Currant Bushes
- Geographic Distribution and Habitat
- General Description
- Edibility and Nutritional Value of Red Currant, Ribes rubrum
- Improve Your Tree and Plant Identification Skills
- Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:
- Currants vs. Raisins
- Health Benefits of Currants
- Oh, currants: The fruit you ought to be eating right now
Currant Bushes: Edible Landscaping for Shady Areas
There aren’t a lot of options for growing edible plants in the shade, so when I learned that currants can be full and productive in the shade, it was love at first sight. I replaced the traditional yew bushes lining our front porch with a row of currant bushes.
On the north side of the house, they’re almost completely shaded. I can’t believe how little they were at the time of planting! >>>
A young hedge of currant bushes in my edible landscape
I planted two each of ‘Red Lake’ red currants and ‘Consort’ black currants. In hindsight, I should’ve chosen only one variety for a uniform look to the hedge. This is a basic landscape design principle called unity. Live and learn…
Currants grow naturally in dappled shade. There, they’ll produce more vibrant, darker foliage, which is good news for an edible landscape. On the other hand, currant bushes are more productive in full sun.
With more sun, however, the shallow roots will require more watering during the hot summer and may be more susceptible to pests.
The mature currant bushes in the landscape
8 Ways to Grow Currant Bushes in the Landscape
Here are a few ways to grow currant bushes:
- As a foundational hedge bordering the front porch. The spring flowers are gorgeous in the spring, and the berries dangle like bunches of grapes in early summer.
- In a shady, unused spot. Try planting them under oak, walnut, or apple trees, according to Gaia’s Garden.
- In a wildlife hedge. Birds love currants. They are said to be deer-resistant, but I’m not so sure about that.
- In a poultry foraging area. Chickens like currants, too.
- At the edges of open woods or in dappled shade in the woods (as in a food forest).
- In a pollination garden. The tiny flowers provide nectar for both hummingbirds and a menagerie of other insects.
- In your medicinal garden. Black currant leaves are known for curing quite a large array of symptoms and illnesses, from arthritis to colds and coughs. All currants are high in vitamin C and can be dried and eaten as a supplement during the winter months.
- In a jelly garden. While I think currants are a bit tart when eaten fresh, they transform into a sweet and mellow taste when made into jelly.
Would you like to learn more about growing fruit in the permaculture landscape?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
Pretty in the Edible Landscape
Black currant bushes are more vigorous than red currants. They are fuller and more upright with straighter branches, and grow to 5-6 feet tall and wide. The leaves are bigger and the branches provide more interest in the winter because the red buds are bigger.
Alternatively, red currant bushes are smaller (3-5 feet tall and wide) and a little more scraggly-looking. But that’s kind of a neat look, too, with the gnarled branches. Clearly, it depends on what you’re looking for!
Flowers of currant bushes
Yield of Currant Bushes
Annually, each of my red currant bushes produce about 2 pounds of berries, while my black currant bushes each produce about 4 pounds of berries.
My bushes are shade-grown, so currant bushes in full sun may produce more berries.
Harvest Season: Currants are harvested in the early summer. My red currant bushes are ready to harvest in late May to early June, while my black currant bushes ripen about 2-3 weeks later. They’re both harvestable for about a month.
How to Harvest: When the entire bunch of berries is ripe (like a bunch of grapes), harvest the whole bunch. Once harvested, pick each berry from the stem before eating or processing.
Pests and Diseases of Currant Bushes
Currants are susceptible to aphids and white pine rust, and shouldn’t be planted near white pines because they can pass on the disease. Currants are prohibited in some states because of their ability to carry the white pine disease.
The nursery can tell you if they’re prohibited altogether where you live, or if only certain varieties are prohibited. I haven’t experienced any pests or disease in my currant hedge.
Prune currant bushes in late winter when they’re dormant to achieve good berry production.
Cut back any stems that are touching the ground or that appear to be diseased or broken. Red currants produce most heavily on 2- to 3-year old stems, while black currants bear more heavily on 1-year-old stems.
Older, less-productive stems should be removed as the plants get older. Too many stems cause overcrowding and reduce productivity, so only keep 10-12 of the most vigorous, younger stems (1-, 2-, and 3-year old stems). Prune the rest back.
At this time, you can also shape currant bushes into a tidy hedge if that’s your thing.
- Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide, The Ohio State University
- Landscaping with Fruit, Lee Reich
- Edible Landscaping, Rosalind Creasy
- Edible Forest Garden, Vol. 2, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier
- The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People by Amy Stross (shameless plug!)
Taste and Uses
Both black and red currants are very tart when eaten fresh, and both have seeds. But they’re high in vitamin C and antioxidants (good-for-you stuff!).
I’ve found loads of ways that I enjoy eating them. I start by freezing all berries immediately after harvesting.
A currant smoothie
1. Currant Smoothies
The frozen berries are delicious in my morning smoothies with coconut milk and a splash of vanilla. I mix equal parts of red currants, black currants, and strawberries together. While the strawberries cut the tartness of the currants, I get to take full advantage of the currants’ high vitamin C content.
A mixed berry jelly containing currants
2. Currant Jelly
The most expensive preserves in the world are called Bar-le-Duc red currant preserves. This delicacy hails from a small village in Northeastern France where it’s been made since at least the 1500s. The trade is passed down from women to daughters, where they use goose quills to painstakingly extract the seed from each berry without causing damage.
I tried to make a version of this, but the recipe for regular people like me includes the seeds, which I didn’t like. Tasted great, too many seeds.
So now I make a jelly rather than preserves because it’s seedless. Currants have a lovely mellow taste when cooked. My mixed berry jelly, which often includes red currants, black currants, and black raspberries, is divine.
Pomona’s pectin is a great way to turn your unique combination of homegrown berries into a one-of-a-kind jelly.
3. Currant-Infused Vinegar
I like to make a berry-infused vinegar with the leftover pulp from making jelly. The pulp includes berry seeds and skin, which still have plenty of flavor. Use regular berries mashed with a potato masher if you don’t have pulp from jelly.
Here’s how to make currant-infused vinegar and how to use it.
Creme de cassis currant liqueur
4. Currant Liqueur
Infusing berries in vodka is really easy! I infused black currants to make a famous French liqueur called creme de cassis. Currants are more popular in Europe, where there are a multitude of traditional uses for the berries.
Here’s how I made the black currant liqueur and how I use it.
Whether you choose red or black currants for your landscape or culinary adventures, you can’t go wrong. They’re both beautiful and tasty!
- All About Aronia: Grow Your Own Superfood Berries
- What is Permaculture Design?
- My Front Yard Rainwater Catchment System
Are you growing currants on your homestead?
Currant Shrubs: Learn How To Grow Currants In Gardens
Ornamental as well as practical, currants are an excellent choice for home gardens in northern states. High in nutrition and low in fat, it’s no wonder currants are more popular than ever. Although they are usually used in baking, jams and jellies because of their tart flavor, some types are sweet enough to eat right off the bush.
What are Currants?
Currants are small berries that pack a lot of nutrition. According to the USDA Nutrition Handbook, they have more vitamin C, phosphorous and potassium than any other fruit. In addition, they are second only to elderberries in iron and protein content, and they are lower in fat than any fruit except nectarines.
Currants come in red, pink, white and black. Reds and pinks are used primarily in jams and jellies because they are quite tart. Whites are the sweetest and can be eaten out of hand. Dried currants are becoming increasingly popular as a snack. Some currant shrubs are attractive enough to plant in a shrub or flower border.
How to Grow Currants
There are restrictions on growing currants in some areas because they are susceptible to white pine blister rust, a disease that can devastate trees and agricultural crops. Local nurseries and agricultural extension agents can help you with information about restrictions in your area. These local resources can also help you choose the variety that grows best in the area. Always ask for disease-resistant varieties.
Currant bushes can pollinate their own flowers, so you only have to plant one variety to get fruit, although you’ll get bigger fruit if you plant two different varieties.
Care of Currant Bushes
Currant bushes live 12 to 15 years, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare the soil properly. They need well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter and a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. If your soil is clay or sandy, work in lots of organic matter before planting, or prepare a raised bed.
Currants grow well in sun or partial shade, and appreciate afternoon shade in warm climates. Currant shrubs prefer the cool conditions in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 5. Plants may drop their leaves when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 C.) for an extended period of time.
Plant currants slightly deeper than they grew in their nursery container, and space them 4 to 5 feet apart. Water thoroughly after planting and apply 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch around the plants. Mulch helps keep the soil moist and cool, and prevents competition from weeds. Add additional mulch every year to bring it up to the proper depth.
Water currant shrubs regularly to keep the soil moist from the time they begin growing in spring until after harvest. Plants that don’t get enough water during spring and summer may develop mildew.
Too much nitrogen also encourages diseases. Give them only a couple of tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer once a year in early spring. Keep the fertilizer 12 inches from the trunk of the shrub.
Pruning currant shrubs annually is helpful for the plant as well in both maintaining its form and inducing a bigger, healthier harvest each year.
Red currant, (or redcurrant), Ribes rubrum is a member of the Gooseberry family, Grossulariaceae . Its fruits are edible and it is relatively easy to recognise and distinguish from other species.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat
Red currant is native to parts of Western Europe but is also widely cultivated, with some wild populations being formed by naturalised escapees.
Red currant tends to grow in isolated but dense stands. It is typically found on river banks and in damp, shady deciduous woodland, often associating with Alder, Alnus glutinosa. In the UK the species is widely distributed but grows most commonly in the southern half of England.
A dense stand of red currant, Ribes rubrum amongst willows and alder. East Sussex, May. Photo: Paul Kirtley.A stand of red currants next to alder trees on the bank of a stream, East Sussex. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
The plant is an upright deciduous shrub, typically growing 1.0 – 1.5m in height, sometimes up to 2.0m.
Stem and Leaves
It has a woody stem and bluntly-toothed, palmate leaves with 3 to 5 lobes, somewhat reminiscent of a maple leaf.
The leaves of red currant, Ribes rubrum, East Sussex, June. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
The flowers, which are present April to May, are a fairly uninspiring yellowy-green, small and not particularly noticeable. The flowers themselves and the racemes they grow in help identify them as Ribes though.
The somewhat dowdy flowers of red currant, Ribes rubrum, April, East Sussex. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
In clusters of up to 20 shiny berries – at first green then bright red – drooping strings of fruit form where the flowers once were. The fruits are round, almost spherical and 6-10mm in diameter. They have translucent skin and you can sometimes see the pips inside. Like gooseberries they have ribs like lines of longitude on a globe.
Red currants, Ribes rubrum, develop drooping strings of fruit. East Sussex, July. Photo: Paul Kirtley.Red currants have translucent skin and you can sometimes see the pips inside. Like gooseberries they have ribs like lines of longitude on a globe. East Sussex, July. Photo: Paul KirtleyGooseberries growing on the banks of the French River, Ontario, Canada in July. Here the family resemblance (lobed leaves, woody stem and berries with ‘lines of longitude’) is clear. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Edibility and Nutritional Value of Red Currant, Ribes rubrum
The berries are edible. They are sweet, being a good source of glucose, fructose and sucrose but also rather tart. They are quite acidic containing, amongst other acids, a significant amount of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), with a concentration of about 40mg/100g fruit. Also of nutritional interest is red currants containing a significant amount of pyridoxine (one of the chemicals that can be called Vitamin B6).
The fruits are typically ripe in July and into August. Birds and small mammals are fond of them and the berries usually quickly disappear as they become ripe. They are easily collected and make a great wayside treat.
If you are collecting to take some home, there are all manner of recipes which incorporate red currants to choose from.
Other species similar to red currant, Ribes rubrum
Black currants, Ribes nigrum, are much less common than red currants but the plants look very similar. Without the berries present, you can tell the difference between red currants and black currants by the smell of the leaves. Black currant leaves smell strongly of black currant cordial, while red currant leaves are unscented and just smell “green”.
It should be noted that the guelder rose, Viburnum opulus, despite growing to a much larger size than red currant plants, is also a shrub with lobed leaves and red berries. Therefore there is some potential for confusion. Guelder rose can also grow in the same habitat – I have certainly seen guelder rose growing alongside red currants in a damp alder wood. Unripe berries or a large number of ripe berries are mildly poisonous and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
Guelder rose, Viburnum opulus leaves and berries. Photo: Wouter Hagens
Apart from the difference in stature of the shrubs, guelder rose fruits grow in bunches more like elderberries, Sambucus nigra and the individual fruits themselves have opaque skin and look more waxy than redcurrants as well as lacking a “tail”.
How is it near you?
If you’ve found red currants while you’ve been out and about recently, let me and other readers know: Are they ripe where you are? Has it been a good crop there too?
Improve Your Tree and Plant Identification Skills
Would you like to improve your ability to identify useful trees and plants? I offer an online tree and plant identification course, which flows through the seasons. Find out more about the next available course by clicking the following link: Paul Kirtley’s Tree and Plant Identification Masterclass
Best Practice while Foraging
Please read the BSBI’s Code of Conduct for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Wild Plants for guidance on the best practice (and UK laws) relating to foraging for wild plant foods.
This article is meant only as a guide and is largely a record of my recent forages. It is not a complete treatment of all edible plants that might be available. Nor does it provide a complete treatment of all poisonous plants that may also be present in the habitat where you find the above-mentioned plants. If you want to learn more about plant identification you should invest in some good field guides. The safest way to learn about edible wild plants is for someone who already has the knowledge to show you in person. Any foraging you do on your own is at your own risk.
The most important thing to remember when identifying wild foods is:
IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!
Recommended Books for Further Reading:
Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:
Foraging for Early Spring Greens: Some to Eat, Some to Avoid…
Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum Galeobdolon
Primrose, Primula vulgaris: Wild food?
Common Dog-violet, Viola riviniana
The Difference Between Chickweed and Yellow Pimpernel
What’s the difference between a raisin and a sultana?
Wendy Mcilroy, Antrim, N.Ireland
- A raisin comes from red grapes, a sultana from white. Kaylene Murdoch, Christchurch, New Zealand
- $1.50 a kilogram. Gerry Singleton, Fremantle, Western Australia
- A sultana is a seedless raisin. Bob, Newport, Wales
- Current thinking has it that the sultana is bigger than the raisin. M Robinson, Rainham
- A raisin is any dried grape. A sultana is a specific variety of (pale yellow seedless) grape and also the raisin of this grape. Mike Goodson, Cambridge
- A raisin is a dried grape. A sultana is the wife of a sultan. Jim Dixon, St. Paul, Minnesota USA
- A raisin and a sultana are produced from the same grape – Thompson seedless The only difference is the way they are dried. A raisin is dried naturally, but a sultana is dipped in veg oil and acid and then dried. Roger Thomason, Nottingham, UK
- Who really cares ????? Adam, Runcorn, UK
- Raisins are hard and over shriveled, sultanas are far juicier. Kirky, Sheffield, UK
- I had always assumed that the raisin sultana divide was down to the colour of the grape, one from red, one from white. However I recently bought both sultanas and raisins and the pictures on both packets were of whight grapes. Sorry to bring currants into this but it seems that they are the result of drying red grapes. If supermarket own brand packaging is to be believed that is. Sarah, Leeds UK
- Sultana – British english, Raisin – American English Surtana – Japanese ebglish, Visitor,
- RAISIN.Noun(1)(a) the dried grape. History C13: From old French :grape, ultimately from the Latin “racemus” cluster of grapes. SULTANA. Noun 1, a dried fruit of a small white seedless grape,originally produced in SW Asia: used in cakes, curries etc.;seedless raisin. (b) the grape itself.(2)Also called:SULTANESS. a wife,concubine, or female relative to the SULTAN.(3) a mistress;concubine. HISTORY C16: from Italian, feminine of sultano SULTAN. CURRANT Noun (1) a small dried seedless grape of the Mediteranean region, used in cooking. (2) any of several mainly N temperate shrubs of the genus RIBES, esp R.rubun (redcurrant) and RR.nigrum (blackcurrant): family GROSSULRIACEAE.(also Gooseberry variant).(3) the small acid fruit of any of these plants. HISTORY C16: shortened from RAYSON OF CORANNTE raisin of Corinth. Mark Giles, Plymouth UK
- It’s easy to tell the difference – just use the nostril test: how many can you get up one nostril? Currants are smallest, raisins larger and sultanas largest of all. So, if you only manage a few, they are sultanas, lots and it’s currants. Somewhere in between and you’ve got raisins. (This does not apply for Australian Lexia Raisins of course but these are horrid anyway). Simon, Sheffield England
- That’s pretty clear Mark. Ray Sin, Manchester, Lancashire
- what about currants? Amy Dabinett, Wigton, UK
- To Adam of Runcorn; you obviously do care, so what is the difference? Nick, Tunbridge Wells Kent, UK
- I researched this because of an argument between my daughters and myself. I was born in Britain in 1939 and I distinctly remember the currant as being the smallest, the sultana next, and then the raisin (with seeds). Now I live in the States and the sultanas are called raisins. One can find the currants and large raisins in a health store. Now I’m visiting Britain and my kids say the rasins are smaller than the sultanas. So today I go to a supermarket and, lo and behold, the only difference between the sultana and the rasin is the color. Now I see that some other people on these internet sites state that the raisin is smaller than the rasin. How did this change come about? They even say that currants are dried currants. I always thought the differences were in the type of grape. Vasudha Donnelly, Gardiner, United States
- Sultanas are shifty and not to be trusted like a lamb’s leg in a badger’s nest, raisins are a man’s fruit, stern and honest like a cheese magnum. Stuart, Bristol
- I strongly believe that the difference is the seeds. It’s raisin if seeded and Sultana if seedless. Currant is the red grapes. Ertugrul Yartasi, Ankara, Turkey
- I would like to settle this argument once and for all! A raisin is a dried white grape, predominantly of the Muscatel variety. A sultana is a small raisin, they are seedless and sweet, and come mainly from Turkey. A current is a dried red grape, originally from Greece. Melissa Clark, Oxford, UK
- Some say size. Some say color. Some say seeds, but they are all bugs without legs. Stuart Moore, Tacoma, USA
- Confused so Googled and copied from it in: Product description Sultanas belong to the grapevine family (Vitaceae) and are native to the Caspian Sea. Currants, sultanas and raisins, including those still on the bunch, are known collectively as “raisins. The difference between these three dried fruits is explained below: Sultanas: seedless, large-berried and light yellow. Larger than currants and smaller than raisins. Currants: seedless, small-berried, purple/black color. Their name derives from the Greek city of Corinth. Raisins on the bunch: seeded, large-berried, generally with stalk. To produce: the grapes are grown on the sultana grapevine. The grapes are harvested when overripe. They are then either air-dried or increasingly dried in special drying plants. Most sultanas are bleached, sulfured after drying and mechanically destalked in order to extend their storage life and prevent subsequent discolouration. Such treatment must be indicated appropriately on the packaging. Treatment with vegetable oils is intended to prevent the sultanas from sticking together. Due to their very high sugar content, sultanas are very sweet and similar in flavour to honey. Jenny Overton, Coffs Harbour, Australia
- We had a debate after clubbing last Sunday and it seems raisins are from red grapes and sultanas are from white grapes. I think it’s a class thing about which ones you prefer. Jonathan, Reading, UK
- In a CURRENT situation, who cares! bob Harder, Bournemouth
- I was of the opinion that raisins were from red grapes and sultanas were from white, but I am a bit unsure now. However what I am sure of is that currants are not made from red grapes, currants are a fruit in their own right, as far as I am aware there are black currants and red currants and these are both dried to produce funnily enough dried red and black currants. Chris Cleveland, Paihia, New Zealand
- The correct answer is as stated already by Melissa Clark, Oxford, UK. The following is Courtesy of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Raisins are dried white grapes usually of the variety ‘Muscatel’. The main producers are the USA, Turkey, Greece and Australia. Sultanas are small raisins. They are seedless, sweet, pale golden in colour and come mainly from Turkey. Currants are dried, black, seedless grapes originally produced in Greece. They were known as ‘raisins of the sun’. Andy Rowe, Holmes Chapel
- Who really cares. We love sultanas. They are so much more juicy James and Chris, Truro Cornwall
- I have been wondering what the answer is for not very long. It all started when I was food shopping and came across some boxes of dried fruits. In the first, sultanas and apples. The second, raisins and apples, the third, sultanas and apricots, the forth, raisins and apricots and finally raisins and sultanas. It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what the difference was. This site has given me lots of ideas but has unfortunately confused my further. I am STILL searching the vast internet for a reliable answer…. Caroline Grint, England
- Stuart from Bristol needs a well padded room in a secure unit. I believe Broadmoor has a few rooms available! Keith, Bedfont, UK
- Are we talking about currant affairs? Callum, Bristol United Kingdom
- Yes, but only if they are raisinably recent currant affairs. Grace, Sultanabimby Australia
- Sultanas smaller than raisins? Has anyone actually looked at a sultana beside a raisin? Huge! Stan, Stevenage Egypt
- Chris from New Zealand is right about what a current is. It is a tiny berry (current) that is dried. raisins ( in the USA anyway ) is a dried grape. It can be from a white, yellow or red grape. The size varies, depending on the variety of grape used. From what I am finding, is in Europe, the define a red grape as ‘raisin’ and if from a white grape as ‘sultanas’. They all taste great. Sharon Shetley , Modesto USA
- Now I am confused…….with this current situation. :- 0 beth, England
- If all 3 are either seeded or seedless how come I just “crunched” my way through a piece of fruit cake ! Does anyone else hate those pips with a passion like me ? Clive, Chelmsford England
- A raisin is a dried grape. Sultana is a popular rock band from San Francisco which came to prominence in the early 1970s and is noted for its Latin-tinged rhythms and the guitar work of its founder, Carlos Sultana. Dave Heaven, Twickenham UK
- after reading the various and amusing answers to the ‘sultana, raisin’ debate I am as confused as ever, but it certainly brightened up 20 mins of my sad sedentary life, thanks folks. jenni, winkleigh great britain
- I’ve found that it’s fairly rare to hear anyone call them raisins here(Brisbane), people mostly use sultana as a blanket term. It seems to be the reverse in the USA, where many people call them all raisins. But in my experience, when I buy sultanas they are usually paler(from white grapes) and raisins are always dark(red grapes). However, earlier today I baught a bag of each and BOTH were dark, but the raisins were larger and slightly darker, both were seedless…It seems like the names vary a lot in their usage, sometimes used to describe the type of grape, other times the size. Even the producers, or at least the people responsible for packaging seem to be pretty inconsistant. Because of all this it’s hard to know exactly what you’re buying, when the lable is often wrong. But it seems that the CORRECT distinction is as others have already stated, the variety of grape. I always thought currants were the dried berries of currant trees/bushes and that there were a whole bunch of species from different genera of fruiting plants all commonly called currants. But people here are also saying the word is used for certain types of dried grape on top of being the common name for a large range of different berries… Tommo, Brisbane Australia
- It sultan-ly seems that with all the helpful suggestions the bar has been raisin d – glass of red or white wine ….anyone??? J. Pemberton, Nova Scotia Canada
- A current is not a raisin, it is not grown on a vine, like a grape. It is a shrub, the berry comes in black and red Marg Biernat, Cambridge, Canada
- Raisin = I’m seeing your hand but raisin the bet Keith Harper, Melbourne, Australia
- I am reading a book about Scotland and went online to see what a sultana is. This has truly been a hilarious adventure in the land of currants, raisins & sultanas. Thank you, one & all. Carol Hart, Florence, Oregon United States
- Well I do care, when a recipe calls for a cup of raisins and I can only buy sultanas. Is this really going to make much difference? Peter Watson, Bacchus Marsh Australia
- What I love about this whole debate is that British people actually care about the language. This attitude is sadly lacking in the good ol’ U S of A, where people skewer and butcher it on a daily basis. So sorry 🙁 And yes, I love Sultanas, Raisins, Currants – the whole lot. Charlie Rafferty, Taos, New Mexico, USA
- Becoming a sultana is every dried fruit’s currant raisin d’etre. Kit Crotchly, Mile End, UK
- What ever way both raisins and sultanas are yummy!! Hayden Hills, Auckland New Zealand
- Interesting answers. but why are they called what that are called? Gary, Portsmouth Hampshire
- The difference is about 20p Linda, Paisley Scotland
- Currant research is inconclusive as to the difference between sultanas and raisins. Jonny Palmer, Ipswich UK
- What are Sultanas? The short answer, at least in this country(UK), is that sultana raisins are golden raisins and you can find them everywhere. But we seldom go for the short answer, do we? There appears to be a good deal of imprecision in the raisin arena. There are three common names for raisins in the English-speaking world Â sultanas, currants, and raisins. Of course, sultanas and currants are raisins Â that is, dried grapes Â and among purists the word raisin is supposed to be used for any raisin that is not a sultana or a currant. But that doesn’t always happen. Currants are tiny raisins from the zante grape, and are supposed to have been first grown on the island of Corinth in Greece. Generally, currants are more tart than other raisins. Sultana raisins were originally the product of the Sultana grape, which grew in Turkey. But in this country, 95% of the grapes used for raisin production are the Thompson Seedless variety, which dry and darken in the sunlight, producing the common raisin. The same variety of grape, however, treated with sulphur dioxide and heated artificially stays lighter, moister, and plumper, and these are what are sold here as golden raisins or sultanas. Theoretically, sultanas are sweeter and less acid than other raisins. Douglas Thorburn, Johnstone, Scotland
- Stuart from Bristol – you’re brilliant! I laughed so much tears rolled down my legs. Glynis, Copa Australia
- I am currently flipping through Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”. I saw the ingredient Sultana and had no clue what it was. Little did I know the search to find out what it is would be so confusing or amusing! Stacey, Saskatoon Canada
- In Aus whereI lived half my life we used sultanas raisins and currants in granny’s fruit cake recipe. Sultanas were much bigger than raisins and lighter and juicier. Now in USA there appears to be little difference and now we know they are the same grape but one is tortured with sulphur dioxide and no one else seems to give a darn! As for me I would prefer to find some of those old style juicy sultanas. Thanks for the laughs from around the globe! Roslyn, Phx. AZ USA
- Raisins are dried red grapes, sultanas are dried white or green grapes, and currants are dried currants Shona, Normanby New Zealand
- Who gives a shit when dozens of kids die daily due to hunger! kangwa, lusaka zambia
- What wonderful answers. Why shouldn’t one care: you can always care about world peace as well. I thought the only difference was that Sultanas came from California and Raisins from Turkey because that is where most of the ones that I have been able to buy have been from and that is the crux of it: what you can buy where you are. Some other places, it seems, this place of manufacture is reversed. Wikipedia is fairly good on the definitions but until now I thought that currants were dried currants. I am however worried by the use of potassium carbonate and sulfur dioxide SO I shall be using Raisins in future. I put them in my special bread pudding and my very special Apple Pie (Breaburns apples!). However LIDL’s says their sultanas come from Turkey (in fench only) and are just grapes!! PS mixed nuts and raisins are the best thing when you are feeling seasick: don’t know why everything else makes one actually sick. Peter M Le Mare, St Just, Penzance Cornwall, Great Britain
- Some additional info for SULTANAS. SULTANAS are small, light yellow color grapes. The Turkish name for SULTANAS is SULTANIYE and they grow Aegean region of Turkey. They are best when fresh, and are so sweet that feels like burning your throat when you are eating them. The best time for them is in the month of August. Ali C. Gencalp, Fort Worth, Texas USA
- I buy 30mt per week, as good as some of these answers are, and respect to those who have done ill advised research on the Internet. The difference is the way they are dried. A raisin is dried naturally, but a sultana is dipped and then dried. Pedro , Wymondham Uk
- I wanted to know this because our English neighbor (cute, little old English lady, tiny but full of chili -sauce) gave me a recipe for tomato chutney ,and when I asked if I could use raisins (I’m here in UK with Hubby who is U.S. Air Force Officer)she smacked my hand with a wooden spoon and said, “Yer’ve gotta use Sultanas and none of those foreign toe-mah-toes neither, good ENGLISH toe-mah toes if you please”. I feel I’d better do EXACTLY as she says, the little tyrant! We’ve unofficially adopted her and she is (what we like to think of as) our “peppery” English “NAN”! I’m not going to tell her I’m buying golden raisins from the U.S. Commisary Ha-Ha! Thanks for all the interesting , humorous answers – You British people ROCK! China, Boston ,Ma U.S
- Sultanas are dipped in what exactly? Dot, Hendersonville, NC USA
- Raisins and Sultanas both come from the same grape. Raisins are naturally dried over a longer period of time and hence the dark colour. Sultanas are dipped in a solution which breaks down the skin, causing it to dry faster and retain some of its light colour. Golden Sultanas are bleached with Sulphur to give its golden colour. A,
- As a 4th generation dried grape grower. Sultanas are made from the variety Sultana (aka Thompson Seedless), dried with the aid of drying emulsion (a mix of vegetable oil & potash). Raisins are made from the varieties Muscat Gordo Blanco or Waltham Cross, without drying emulsion. They are generally larger than sultanas and may or may not have the seeds removed. Both are from white varieties. Sultana dried without emulsion are called Naturals or TSR’s in the US. Several improved Sultana types have been introduced recently which are also marketed as Sultana, such as Sun Muscat. On the other hand Currants are made from the red varieties Zante or Carina and are smaller than sultana. They are seedless, and shouldn’t be confused with blackcurrants or redcurrants which are not grapes at all. Lex Williams, Barmera Sunraysia
- I love this board! Visiting our son in Dublin Ireland and came across sultanas in baked goods. Apparently sultanas are favored over raisins 3:1. We are going to start a “save the raisin” campaign on the american west coast. The goal is to save jobs in California and buy locally grown American produce without horse meat in it. Gail, Portland Oregon USA
- I need to know desperately! Why? I’ve been told “Raisins soaked in Gin” are good for arthritis, and I only have sultanas??? Will let you know the result, if I can crawl across the floor to my iPad. By the way, this is real, honest! Joyce, Newcastle England
- It sounds to me like you are all talking about Golden Raisins, which is what we sensibly call them here in America. I have never even seen the word sultana until today. I am reading a cookbook which also features rashers and capsicum. Why can’t you just say bacon and peppers? lol Penny, Sherwood, Ohio USA
- Well, love all of the answers but I am going to share my bit of info now. I grew up in the San Joaquin valley in CA. Every year we would be involved in drying Thomsan Seedless grapes to make raisens for SunMaid. We would cut the grapes, lay them on brown paper and after a couple of weeks go and turn them. This would go on until they were a dark colour. I hadn’t heard of Sultanas until I moved over here to England to live with my British hubby. I am inclined to believe it is the drying technique which gives the difference between sultanas and raisens, it makes the most sense. I know dried apricots are different over here as well due to the drying techniques. In California we halve the apricots and dry them after dipping them in a solution of lemon/water and then smoking some sulphur dioxide around them to keep them from turning black and keep the bugs off. It is so interesting to discover the different techniques and tastes that come from these as you travel to different areas. Hope this is useful to some of you looking into the difference. I am all for saving the raisins as I don’t like the plumpness of the sultanas. Haha! Mj, Exeter USA
- Very interesting read. Having grown up in a region of Australia that grows huge amounts of grapes, I feel the need to voice my opinion. The Sultana is actually a variety of grape. A raisin is the result of drying any grape. The confusion comes as the Sultana is the best variety for the drying procedure as it is small, sweet and seedless, so most raisins are referred to as sultanas. And for the international confusion, the Sultana grape variety is also known as Thompson Seedless in America, Lady de Coverly in England and the oval-fruited Kishmish in Turkey. Getting on to the currents, currents are a different fruit to grapes. Its a bit like wine, fermented grape juice is referred to as a wine, However a Reisling wine is from the reisling variety of grapes, a chardonnay is from the chardonnay grape variety, hope this clarifies the situation a little. Craig, Mildura Australia
- Oh I love you all, best quips for ever…beats the rubbish spewed in our parliament. Anyone want to be our new PM, we’d love to laugh insted of cry! brenda, gold coast australia
- Sultana is from the white grape, and is the largest of sultanas, raisins, and currants, with currants being the smallest. Santana, on the other hand, is a band from the late ’60s named after the great guitarist (and the founder of the band), Carols Santana. The best way to enjoy a sultana is to eat it while listening to Santana. Laura Smith, West Newton, US
- Grew up on the family vineyards where we specialized in dried fruits. The current was the smallest and blackest and came from small red berries, they were the first picked in the picking season. Next was the sultana. Later in life it got the fancy name of Thompson Seedless and it was a white grape. Depending on the crownage. 1 – dark berries to 6 light, a beautiful golden colour, never sold in Australia BUT shipped to England for sale, the only way we could get 6 crown light was to recall some of what we grew and put into the Packing sheds, the next was the Raisin, there were two types, The Gordo and the Waltham, both were big grapes and full of seeds, there were considered a white grape, but more often the gordo was green and the waltham, yellow to tan. The currant was dried naturally, the sultana dipped and the the gordo was hot dipped, a mongrel of a job, two dip tins in either hand dipping them into a hot solution of potashe and dipping oils, usually on a 40degree celeius day, really opened the pores and cleaned your skin up. Amazingly you never see Ads for dried currants, sultanas or raisins in Australia & the only film I’ve seen where they were made a repeat part in the film (3 times) was Pork Chop Hill with Gregory Peck (1957) when he was handing them around to his fellow soldiers. Gary Pearse, Mildura, Victoria Australia
- Further to last, A lovely sweet (dessert if you’re in OZ) Boil your rice, in the last few minutes throw in a handful of dried sultanas, serve with cream, for those with a sweet tooth, sprinkle some sugar over your serve to your taste, Marvelous. Storing dried sultanas, stick them in the deep freeze, ready to mix and eat, just pull them out and serve because the sultana retains its sugar in syrup form, it doesn’t harden up like an ice cube. Peanuts and sultanas mix great for starters and drinks. Curries can also benefit from a handful of sultanas. Sultana scones, sultana cakes and sultana damper hot from the camp oven. Just great. The turkish sultanas is dark and gritty, it’s imported into OZ and mixed with the Australian fruit to make it palettable. You will notice that the packers have removed the crownage symbol from the packaging, so mow you can’t tell if you’re getting 1 or 3 crown fruit. The higher the number the lighter and better the fruit. gap, Mildura, Victoria Australia
- I believe the right answer comes from the producers of raisin vs sultana. As for me, raisin comes from Organic Goodies that my son likes and sultana comes from my wife’s yummy fruit cakes I like. Gary, Dublin, Ireland
- Totally confused now. The sales girl in the shop didn’t know the difference between sultanas and raisins. The pack says produce of Turkey. Is this from the Turkey’s anus? Hope not, I’m vegetarian. The pack also says vegetable oil. What is all this about being dipped in acid, too? Surely these sultanas are not safe to eat. Should I call in the health and safety police. Need a quick response because my porridge is waiting for the sultanas. Barry, Thirsk England
- It seems to differ, as to where you’re from. Reading the first few replies, I was amazed that they were saying sultanas are bigger than raisins. Here in Aus, Raisins are much bigger (and darker) than sultanas. Currants are tiny and almost black. David Betts, Bonbeach, Australia
These currants are smaller than ordinary raisins and are packed with flavor. Known as Zante currants, they are dried, seedless red grapes with a sweet and tangy taste. The rich flavor of currants is delicious in cakes, jams, and other dishes. A rich source of iron, antioxidants, and fiber, currants will give your diet a super nutritional boost.
Currants vs. Raisins
Currants and raisins, along with close relative sultanas, are all naturally sweet dried fruits made from different varieties of raisins. Currants are the rarest variety of the three. True black and red currants (different from Zante currants) tend to be tarter and grow on bushes rather than sultanas and raisins which grow on vines.
Health Benefits of Currants
Nutritional Powerhouse: Zante currants are naturally low in sodium, fat-free and cholesterol-free, but provide an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. They boast high levels of iron, potassium, calcium, and B-complex vitamins. They are also a plentiful source of dietary fiber and antioxidants.
Lower Cholesterol Levels: Research suggests that including currants in your diet can reduce harmful cholesterol levels. These small raisins are a good source of soluble fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and limit the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the bloodstream. A study from the University of Connecticut showed that participants lowered LDL cholesterol levels when they ate one cup of raisins per day and walked regularly.
Bone Health: It’s important to eat foods that will keep your bones strong and healthy. Zante currants are especially rich in a trace element called boron, which supports strong bones and improves healthy joint function. Studies suggest that including boron-rich foods as part of your diet can lower the risk for developing osteoporosis, an age-related disease that causes weak and fragile bones.
Vitamins for Eyes: UV ray exposure from sunlight causes a build-up of free radicals that can damage the eyes. The antioxidants in currants protect the eye’s retina by repairing damaged cells. Vitamin A and carotenoids also protect against age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease which causes vision loss and blindness.
Cavity-Fighter: Currants might be the only sweet treat that gets the approval of your dentist. These raisins are packed with compounds that fight oral bacteria, the cause for cavities, tooth decay, and periodontal disease. Research presented at the American Society for Microbiology found five different compounds naturally occurring in raisins that can protect teeth and gums.
Oh, currants: The fruit you ought to be eating right now
Frozen red currants don’t show their freezer age once they’re defrosted, which is one of many reasons to love them. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)
Currants are in season — tart and tiny on the stem at the farmers market. Somehow, a stampede to snap up all the half pints never materializes. Where’s the peach-picking love, people? Red currants rival the sheen and brilliance of sour cherries. The white ones beckon with a touch more sweetness, pink ones are floated in champagne flutes and the aromatic, purple-black ones — whose bushes are a fixture in England’s summer gardens — make the best jam, not to mention creme de cassis.
They are small yet they pack an acidic punch. Toss them in the freezer as is and that’s how they’ll emerge, months later. I could tout their antioxidant chops (X times more than blueberries) or nutritional assets (loads of vitamin C) or ease of use (no pitting), but that’s not why they deserve a ride home. You can’t ask for a more versatile kind of berry. Fresh, they can be tossed into just about any dish or salad in which lesser raisins are deployed, where I guarantee that currants will be a piquant upgrade. They are the fruit equivalent of a caper, if a caper delivered tart instead of salty.
They make a fine crumble, a terrific barbecue sauce and even a no-fuss cake decoration, pictured above. Dried, they are the go-to feature of classic scones. (Fun fact: Black currants were banned from commercial production in New York from early settler days until 2003, because the plants could be carriers of a fungus that killed pine trees.)
It takes no time at all for them to cook down with a bit of liquid and sugar or spices; once strained or pureed, the resulting sauce will be worth drizzling on every course. Give them a try.
Top recipes of the week
Good eats and seasonal favorites on display in our readers’ most-viewed recipes online:
(Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)
1. Grilled Corn Four Ways. Back on top again this week, offering a quartet of taste variations.
2. Santa Fe Breakfast Bowl. This won a recent cooking competition among institutional health-care chefs; you wouldn’t be hungry the rest of the day.
3. Simple Pan-Fried Chicken. No flour, no marinating.
4. Definitive Fried Chicken. Adobo seasoning’s the secret.
5. Warm Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad With Cherries, pictured above. Even if you have 31 cherries instead of the required 32, you’ll be happy with the result. From #WeeknightVegetarian.