Currants also known as Corinthian raisins or Zante raisins, are dried berries of small, sweet, seedless grape cultivar ‘Black Corinth’ (Vitis vinifera). The name comes from the Anglo-French phrase “raisins de Corinthe” (raisins of Corinth) and the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante), once a major producer and exporter.
The currant is one of the oldest known raisins. The first written record was in 75 AD by Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, describing it as a ‘tiny, juicy, thick-skinned grape with small bunches’. In the 14th century, they were sold in the English market under the label Reysyns de Corauntz, and the name raisins of Corinth was recorded in the 15th century, after the Greek harbour which was the primary source of export. Gradually, the name became corrupted into currant.
Currants are very small and intensely flavoured. In the UK, currants are used in Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mincemeat as well as biscuits scones, currant buns. Also available mixed with raisins and sultanas as “mixed dried fruit”.