Raisins, as you probably know, are simply dried grapes, which grow on vines. True currants, on the other hand, are not grapes at all. Also known as “sultanas,” currants are (dried) berries – to be precise, a species of the Ribes berry – that grow on bushes. Originally exported from the Greek city of Corinth, the name “currant” was likely the result of an English mistranslation of the French phrase “raisin de Corauntz.” (You can see how the mistake was made, right?)
Real currants were outlawed by the U.S. Congress in 1911, after it was determined they were responsible for an outbreak of white pine blister rust, a fungus responsible for damaging American pine trees, and a significant threat to the logging industry. Due to the ban, Greece began producing small dried grapes, or raisins.
The major difference between the two is that raisins are sweet and are often used in recipes for treats such as oatmeal cookies, rice pudding and scones (just to name a few of TRB‘s favorites!). Currants are tart and, therefore, more suitable for savory dishes.