Farmer hopes currants catch on in America

Sunday, July 21, 2002

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. -- It's small and tart, with a taste and appearance something like a cranberry. But while it's wildly popular in Europe, the currant is mostly unappreciated in the United States.

Cherry Hill Farm, with its 6,000 currant bushes, is one of the only significant sources of the fruit in the region.

Peter Hingston said the currant is among the most popular fruits in his native England. But the berry has never experienced that kind of popularity here -- its tartness isn't exactly in high demand.

Still Hingston believes there is a place for the currant in American cuisine. Although he doesn't believe the currant will be a sensation anytime soon, he hopes the demand will continue to increase.

"Vermont has got this wonderful processing industry in the dairy line, with cheeses and yogurts and ice creams," Hingston said. "It would be wonderful to latch on to that."

Like cranberries, currants are often used in a mix of flavors. Even fans of the fruit typically don't eat them in their natural state.

Jams and jellies

Currants are used to make jams and jellies, and are an ingredient in fruit drinks and sodas. There's even a black currant liqueur, which is popular in Canada.

In Europe, where they are among the most popular fruits, currants can be found in sweets like cheesecakes, muffins and ice creams.

Many of the people who stop at Cherry Hill to pick currants for jams and other recipes are transplanted Europeans now living in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Jason Aldous, a spokesman for Vermont's Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets, attributes the fruit's lack of popularity in the United States to white pine blister rust, a disease carried by some varieties of currants.

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