Grape expectations

Grapes have a long and abundant history. While they’ve grown wild since prehistoric times, evidence suggests they were cultivated in Asia as early as 5000 BC. The grape also played a role in numerous biblical stories, being referred to as the ‘fruit of the vine.’ Grapes were first planted in the U.S. in the early 17th century at a Spanish Mission in New Mexico. From there, they quickly spread to the central valley of California. Currently, Italy, France, Spain, the U.S., Mexico and Chile are among the largest commercial producers of grapes. Grapes that are eaten from the vine are called table grapes, as opposed to wine grapes or raisin grapes. While there are thousands of varieties of grapes, only about 20 constitute the majority of table grapes consumed. Grapes come in a variety of colors including green, amber, red, blue-black, and purple. Purple varieties have more of the antioxidant activity than white or red. Grapes have been shown to help save eyesight, conquer kidney stones, maintain healthy aging, lower cholesterol and promote heart health, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and greatly cut the risk of colorectal cancer among other cancers. Red grapes, especially, act as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals, thereby protecting DNA in cells, and preventing harmful blood clots that trigger heart attacks and strokes. While studies show red wine offers numerous protective benefits, grape juice also provides the majority of these effects without the risks of alcohol consumption. Avoid products labeled as grape ‘drinks.’ This is often an imitation high-sugar product with little real grape juice. Grapes are excellent sources of manganese and good sources of vitamins B6, B1, C and potassium. One cup of grapes has 62 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrates and over 1 gram of fiber. As a plant food, grapes have no cholesterol. Choose grapes that are plump and free from wrinkles. They should be intact, not leaking juice, and firmly attached to a healthy looking stem that is not dry or broken. One way to evaluate the sweetness of grapes is by their color. Green grapes should have a slight yellowish hue, red grapes should be mostly red, while purple and blue-black grapes should be deep and rich in color. Since grapes tend to spoil and ferment at room temperature, they should always be stored in the refrigerator. Loosely wrap unwashed grapes in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. This way, they’ll keep fresh in the fridge for up to five days. Packed with disease-fighting phytonutrients, they’re readily available fresh, in 100 percent juice, grape seed oil, wine or in jams. Raisins are the dried fruit of the grapevine. Grapes are delicious out of hand and also good, believe it or not, from the freezer. Frozen grapes make a refreshing snack on a hot day. A few quick serving ideas: serve stewed and spiced grapes with poached chicken breast for a light and healthy entree. Grapes are a wonderful addition to any fruit or mixed green salad. For an enhanced visual effect, consider using a few different varieties of grapes. Grapes are great served with cheese. Next week: Honeydews Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published tradebooks. For any questions contact Susan at trijrsL@msn.com or www.fruitandveggienurse.com

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