At a company that makes ice cream, you’d think we’d all be obsessed with sweets. But, truth is, we love sour and tart flavors just as much (if not a little more). It’s why we gravitate toward using tangy fruits like lemon and blackcurrant.
You’ve probably heard of blackcurrants—especially if you’ve traveled a bit in Europe where the piquant berry is popular. But it’s not something readily found at your neighborhood farmers market. That’s because for roughly the last century these tiny, deep purple berries were illegal to grow in the US.
It’s wild to think something so small could be so menacing. But that’s exactly how blackcurrants were perceived by the lumber industry. The story starts in the early 1700s when American white pine seedlings were shipped to England. This tree variety made its way across Europe, eventually contracting blister rust—a disease that affects white pine trees.
Back in the states, our once-prosperous white pine forests were depleted. And so we began re-importing white pines, unaware blister rust would follow. Here’s where blackcurrants come in. White pines don’t catch this fungus from other white pines. They catch it from carriers, like some varieties of blackcurrant bushes.
In 1911, with pressure from the lumber industry, Congress banned the farming of this once-common berry brought to America by English settlers. That ban still stands in many states today, including Ohio where European blackcurrants are considered a “public nuisance.” (In the ’60s, the federal government left it up to individual states to lift the ban, which is why we’re seeing a small resurgence in blackcurrant farming in states like New York.) It’s why blackcurrants earned the nickname America’s forbidden fruit.
We’ve used this sour fruit—we source high-quality puree from Europe—to make Blackcurrant Lambic Sorbet and Toasted Brioche ice cream with butter and black currant jam. Our Orchid Vanilla sandwich features a dollop of blackcurrant jam between macaroon cookies and Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean ice cream. It’s also prominent in our Bramblebery Crisp ice cream with swirls of sweet-tart blackberry and blackcurrant jam. And blackcurrant puree also plays a big part in our new Brambleberry Sorbet (now in scoop shops).