Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Currants and Gooseberries

As a young elementary school student in search of adventure, I turned to tales of mice and badgers, battles and feasts.  It was far easier than trying to understand other children, that's for sure.  One of the wonderful things about these books (it's the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques) -- it was the food.  Mouth-watering descriptions of dishes I'd never heard, elderflower wine, skilly and duff, marchpane, currant scones...I wanted nothing more than to try each and every one. 

Now as a 20-something exploring the world of food, currants came back into my life through three food blogs:

Cannelle et Vanille is written by a Basque ex-pat named Aran Goyoaga living in Florida.  She just recently posted an ode to currants, but they are a frequent fixture in her dishes.

Tarlette is written by Helene Dujardin, a French ex-pat living in Charleston, South Carolina.  She recently went gluten free, so if you're looking for a former French pastry chef who spends a lot of time thinking about how to make pastry gluten free, this is the place to find that sort of thing.  She also uses currents wherever you would normally see berries in a dessert. 

La Tourtine Gourmande is written by Béa Peltre, an ex-pat from France who lives in Boston!  (I'm pretty sure we should be friends).  She, too, is a currant fiend

So.  My conclusion?  Currants must be French, or in the very least, European.  Because to me, summer berries are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.  There simply aren't any other options.  I asked the woman selling the glorious spread of berries for Bug Hill Farms about it, and apparently it was illegal for many years to plant currants because they were considered carriers of white pine blister rust, a mold that affects white pine trees.  The logging industry therefore petitioned to have currants and gooseberries declared illegal in the early 1900s, meaning that the plants here in the US are few and far between.

But!  The law is no longer in effect, so you can plant the disease-resistant American cultivars without a problem.  My next Penthouse garden challenge?  Perhaps!

Champagne currants

Green gooseberry

By this point in my photo shoot up in the penthouse, condensation had started to form.  Silly 90ºF weather...

Red gooseberry

At this point the auto-focus began to think that the condensation was the target, so I gave up and started eating instead.  

Black currants (cassis)

Red currants


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