“Mosquito is out, it’s the end of the day;
she’s humming and hunting her evening away.
Who knows why such hunger arrives on such wings
at sundown? I guess it’s the nature of things.”
- N. M. Boedecker, Midsummer Night Itch
Well here we are – July, midsummer and definitely barbeque time – that’s when if ever it stops rainning. Let’s hope so. Blackcurants are the way to go so read on for a zesty vinaigrette marinade…
All around us everything is growing like mad thanks to all the rainfall. Unfortunately, the rain will also have done a little damage – some of my plants are flat on the ground with stems bent and damaged. That will also be happening the vegetable garden so it’s time to stake your taller vegetables and rescue what you can. However, if we now get some sunshine the garden should be on track to mass produce this month.
The bean harvest should start soon and will keep going until October, the berry season will pick up this month as strawberries continue to produce and soon we will be picking currants – black, red and white (members of the gooseberry family).
I can remember pruning the blackcurrants late last year when they were just leafless woody branches. The bushes were amazing the other day – looking so green and healthy and loaded with fruit about to ripen. I absolutely love sharp, sour fruit so blackcurrants are ideal and I prefer to use them with as little sugar as I can get away with.
Blackcurrant (botanical name Riges nigru) is a perennial shrub that can grow to 2 meters high. The leaves of the shrub are potently aromatic and a long time ago they would have been found growing naturally in the forested regions of Northern Europe and used for food. Today blackcurrants are widely cultivated and used to make jams, jellies and pies and extensively used in the beverage industry (in fact, 95% of Britain’s harvest).
They are a very rich source of Vitamin C, hence their use in drinks and cordials, with good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B5. The French make a blackcurrant syrup, Cassis, which when added to a chilled white wine makes a refreshing summer aperitif called ‘Kir’.
Freshly picked blackcurrant leaves can also be immersed in white wine to add essence. A cold infusion prepared with the leaves is said to be extremely effective in quenching thirst during hot weather conditions – bring on the hot weather so we can find out!
Blackcurrants are also are valued for their therapeutic attributes as Quinsy Berries, a name derived from their effectiveness in treating inflammation of tonsils – in the form of a home remedy to cure swollen and sore throats. The term ‘quinsy’ denotes a type of tonsillitis. Today it is not surprising that so many of the throat lozenges on sale are prepared from blackcurrants.
The fruits stimulate the body to get rid of excessive fluids, they aid in lowering blood volume and, in this manner, lower blood pressure. Apparently, the infused smelly leaves are cleansing and make an outstanding gargle for curing bleeding gums and to promote overall good oral hygiene as well as treatment for rheumatic pains, dropsy (edema) and whooping cough.
The infusion may also be applied topically to accelerate abscesses and cuts are a little slow in healing. The leaves were also used for making tea and today you will find them added to different herbal tea blends. What amazing credentials – you better make sure you stock up on them this summer – they do freeze well!
There are lots of recipes for blackcurrants and there is nothing better than a blackcurrant and apple pie. However, it is barbeque time and you will be enjoying lots of salads so why not try this dressing for your favourite salads or to marinate your barbecue foods.
Black Currant Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh Blackcurrants
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar (or less if you are brave)
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
dash fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
Place Blackcurrants in blender with cider vinegar and puree. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep refrigerated and stir or shake well before using.
Did you know? ….
The oil extracted from blackcurrant seed forms an active ingredient of many cosmetics and ointments for the skin. Often, this oil is blended with Vitamin E with a view to thwart oxidation. Blackcurrant leaves also yield a yellow dye, while the fruit provides a blue or violet dye. In addition, the leaves of this plant are also used for preserving vegetables.
Enjoy your blackcurrants and your midsummer month!