[NAFEX] Re Black currant, taste - improvement, etc Loooong
Ribes60 at aol.com
Ribes60 at aol.com
Sun Mar 7 22:04:49 EST 2004
This is in reply to several postings re black currant taste and “
improvements, I have taken a couple days to consider what I want to say and how to say it.
My first thought was to say, “they are just better” and, “black currants
are like women – there is no such thing as a bad one, some are just better than
others”. Somehow I did not think that was the answer expected.
I expect that by now, most regular posters have decided that I am pretty
passionate about black currants and will try to honestly answer all questions to
the best of my ability. So here goes:
Here we will deal with three different classes of black currants, Ribes
Nigrum (the European black currant), Ribes Americana (one of the native American
black currants) and Ribes Odoratum (another American black currant – Crandall).
These are all different types of black currants. Then in the 1950s and 60s the
Canadians bred and released three selections of Ribes Ussuriense that are
very similar to R. Nigrum. These selections are Consort, Crusader and Coronet, in
my opinion they look like R Nigrum but they are very different in flavor and
some other characteristics. I have grown each of them and we have used
Crusader as a parent in some of the breeding that we have done. These three
selections are fully immune to WPBR and are often accepted in many locations that do
not allow R. Nigrum. Crusader has not added very much to the seedlings that were
produced and we no longer use it.
Every seedling has it’s own special characteristics, we try to manipulate
these by choosing parents they are known to possess the characteristics that we
like. This may take a lot of crosses and backcrosses in hopes that we will come
up with a plant and berry that is just what we want.
Improvements are somewhat like “taste” and “quality” – they may mean
different things to different folks. If you are a commercial grower, you may want
all fruit to ripen at the same time and need only one picking, you may want the
fruit to look good, have good color and ship well Taste is great if you can
get that also, but often taste is a secondary characteristic, because “most
consumers don’t know what they really want anyway”. This is one of the really
good things about NAFEXers, most eat or use the fruit that they grow and do not
really care how it looks as long as it tastes good or is satisfactory to them.
I have been extolling the gooseberries and currants for many years, and most
people do not know much if anything about them. I have said for a long time
that “someday, they will be common to many farm markets, roadside stands and the
fresh market in general”. I want to be able to go the chain markets and find
black currant juice, candy, yogurt, ice cream and cough drops flavored with
black currant. This is not going to just suddenly happen. I think that we have
to have a market that demands it, and also have a ready supply for that market.
In my opinion, this will only happen if we can expand the market slowly, this
means that growers are not expected to plant 10, 20 or 50 acres of currants,
and that juicers will not process thousands of pounds of berries until they
feel they market is ready for it.
My strategy is to have small growers especially those near large centers of
populations and those that know and like them to share the harvest. I have
found that I can sell almost all the fruit I grow and pick. Value added products
have always been accepted very well. Jams, pies and wines have been the
products that have attracted the most interest, but as small growers we need to
really attract the people that like to use fruit fresh and raw. To do this we need
to have fruit that is palatable and acceptable to eat “out of hand” (and we
need to shorten the acquired taste time)
Black currant, generally has a sharp intense taste that does not appeal to
the majority of the consuming population. Cooking the fruit, even for a short
time, converts it to a very acceptable product. We have found that there are
some selections that are sweeter and milder than others, not that they are “less
good for cooking or juicing” but they may require less sugar and the flavor is
very good. Some are very acid like and really need to be cooked.
Taste is such a subjective thing that I find it hard to qualify or quantify,
that is why there is so many brands of beer, soft drink salsa and on and on.
The selection of currants for home processing is not as important as how the
product is blended – the amount of sugar other spices or flavoring added. The
home grower can produce a “customized” product that is “just what he wants”. I
have heard it said that cinnamon or nutmeg just mask poor quality apples. The
amount of sugar certainly affects jam and jam made with very little sugar
(and the appropriate pectin) is IMHO, much better than the usual commercial
product. All this is not true of the fresh raw fruit – it lives or dies on it’s
own merit. I strive for a fruit that is acceptable to the greatest number of
consumers, just as it comes off the plant or with very little added. There is
almost as much variability in black currants as exist in grapes, apples, peaches
and other fruit, there is just not as good selection to choose from. I am
very fortunate to have the opportunity to taste hundreds of selections of black
currant, some are immediately acceptable to me but maybe not so much to Harry
Swartz, the breeder. I have found that we have some different tastes, but there
are some that we both discard without question.. Remember, all are good, some
just better than others.
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