While watching Greg Quinn’s TED talk on black currants, I was slightly unnerved to find out that I was one of those suckers who thought Zante Currants were indeed currants. Zante currants look like raisins, taste like raisins, and come in a box with this warning about the occasional GRAPE STEM mixed up inside. I still never saw it coming. Surely I’ve read every food label in my cabinet except for this one…
The blow to my pride does not make the Zante Currant taste any less delicious in my oatmeal. It may be a raisin, but it’s a quality raisin. In fact, the “Black Corinth” has been with us for a long time: Pliny the Elder made mention of this “tiny Greek grape” in 75 A.D., and in 1901 the USDA’s David Fairchild was responsible for the first introduction in the U.S.
However, the future of the California Zante Currant (and really, the future of all U.S. raisins) may be in jeopardy. Greece’s “above-average yield” in 2014 flooded the export market and kept prices for California exports from rising. A rise in price is necessary to justify the expense for the farmers. Couple that with a “lack of labor” and historic drought conditions and you have many farms ripping out their vines and replacing at least a portion of their land with more lucrative nut crops.
References: Fitchette, T. 2015. RBA achieves $1,900 for 2014 Zante Currant raisin crop. Available online: http://westernfarmpress.com/markets/rba-achieves-1900-2014-zante-currant-raisin-crop, Accessed 18 October 2105. Northcutt, G. 2015. Following bloom, water for irrigation remains a big concern for raisin grape growers. Available online: http://westernfarmpress.com/grapes/following-bloom-water-irrigation-remains-big-concern-raisin-grape-growers. Accessed 18 October 2015. University of California Integrated Viticulture. Zante Currant. Available online: http://iv.ucdavis.edu/Viticultural_Information/?uid=131&ds=351. Accessed 18 October 2015.