Vegan Redcurrant & Red Onion Relish

 reading time: 5 min

Happy Lammas aka Lughnasadh aka Harvest Day!

Traditionally held on the 1st of August, or about halfway between the summer solstice (Litha) and the autumn equinox (Mabon), Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest season. What better way to celebrate than to process your harvest?

The redcurrant shrubs in my Mum's community garden were bursting with ripe red berries, and in an attempt to use up the huge bag of fresh redcurrants she gave me I decided to turn them into this sweet and tart relish before they went bad. Purplish red in colour, this relish is unbelievably good on bread or with potatoes, as well as with grilled vegetables, burger patties or sausages, or even on top of plain (vegan) yogurt.

So if you also happen to have an abundance of redcurrants right now and don't really know what to do with them except turn them into smoothies or jam, I suggest making this homemade relish. 'Cause it's delish!

Where and How to Harvest Redcurrants 

Redcurrants or red currants (Ribes rubrum) are a member of the gooseberry family and are closely related to blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum). Their fruits are edible and easy to distinguish from other species. They contain a significant amount of the antioxidant vitamin C, which makes them a valuable food source to improve the immune system and eliminate free radicals in the body. Birds and small mammals are fond of them too :)

Redcurrants are native in continental Europe, especially here in Germany. Their isolated, but dense stands are typically found on riverbanks, in hedgerows and in damp, shady deciduous woodland, often amongst willows and alder. They grow in an upright shrubs, typically 1 meter to 1.5 meters in height. The plant has a woody stem and bluntly-toothed, palmate leaves with 3 to 5 lobes, somewhat reminiscent of a maple leaf. When crushed, their leaves do not have a scent.

Redcurrant berries grow in clusters of up to 20 shiny round berries, which hang in drooping strings, aka trusses. They are richly coloured red, firm, juicy, and have a tart but sweet flavour. They have translucent skin and ribs like lines of longitude on a globe, similar to gooseberries. Their fruits can be harvested from late June to August and in some cases even September.

To harvest, cut whole trusses from the stems and use immediately, or store in the fridge for a few days. Alternatively, strip redcurrants from stalks, rinse, pat dry, place in bags and freeze for later use.

Time-consuming to pick and quite tart, these red jewels are still great to eat raw in smoothies, over muesli or porridge, in salads, or made into ice cream. They are especially wonderful in cooking or baking, such as cakes, pies, sweet or piquant jelly, jam, fruit leather, and even chutneys and relishes!

In herbal medicine, redcurrants have been used to treat constipation, rheumatism and scurvy. Used in homemade face masks, they tighten the skin.

A potential look-alike
is the guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) which is also shrub with lobed leaves and shiny red, berry-like drupes that resembles red currants which even grows in the same habitat as redcurrants, however much larger in size. Unripe guelder rose berries or a large number of ripe berries are mildly poisonous and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, so make sure you've got the right plant. As you can see in the picture above, guelder rose fruits grow in bunches more like elderberries, and the individual fruits have opaque skin and look more waxy, as opposed to the translucent and glossy redcurrant cluster strings that dangle down like a pair of exotic earrings that maybe Luna Lovegood would wear (see picture at the bottom of this blog post).

General Foraging Guidelines:

  • You should be 100 % certain you are identifying the correct plant. If you do not know what it is, DO NOT eat it! Do not pick if you're in doubt!

  • Don't harvest from contaminated areas such as busy roadsides, near industrial facilities, where dogs pee, along the edges of agricultural fields, old landfill sites etc.

  • Be mindful & harvest sustainably. Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply, and never more than 1/4 of a plant, ideally only about 5 %.

  • Leave the harvesting area litter-free.


adapted from BBC Good Food

Preparation time: 35 mins (+ 1 hour cooling time)
Main ingredients: redcurrants, red onion, sugar, apple cider vinegar
difficulty level: easy
makes: 2 to 3 cups
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, soy-free, yeast-free, low fat


200 g fresh redcurrants, stripped from stalks
2 red onions
1 small red pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small knob fresh ginger
1/2 large red chili pepper, finely chopped
100 ml apple cider vinegar
50 ml dry red wine
140 g raw cane sugar or brown sugar

1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
(optional) 1 bay leaf


Rinse and drain stripped redcurrants. Set aside.

Combine red wine and apple cider vinegar, and set aside.

Chop red onions and red pepper, and add to a medium frying pan. Sauté with a little bit of olive oil for about 5 to 8 minutes until softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.
To the frying pan, add minced garlic, ginger and chili (I removed the seeds, but adjust according to how spicy you like it). Bring to a boil along with about half the amount of wine/vinegar mix, then simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the softened red onion/pepper mix back into the pan, as well as the sugar, garam masala, salt, and the optional bay leaf. Deglaze with the remaining wine/vinegar mix, and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Lastly, toss the rinsed redcurrants into the pan, and allow to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until they have burst, and the liquid starts to turn syrupy.

Pour into prepared preserving jars while still hot, and seal immediately. Leave to cool completely before storing in the fridge or a cool, dark place. Stored that way, it keeps for about 3 weeks.

This redcurrant and red onion relish goes very well with mashed potatoes and our nutty lentil loaf, or with (vegan) cheese, grilled vegetables, or spread on top of bread such as our gluten-free oat & flaxseed bread (recipe coming soon).

- To make this relish more liquid-y, add more apple cider vinegar. To make it thicker, simply let it simmer for longer.
To give it a longer life span, you can also freeze the relish in batches. While I don't particularly enjoy the taste of store-bought frozen food, I really love using my freezer to preserve harvested herbs and homemade food (although I really want to look into canning as well). Just make sure to leave enough headroom for the contents to expand!

May I introduce you to ... Maisy Lovegood? 😜