Grapes are small round or oval shaped berries that have semi translucent flesh sheathed by a smooth skin. There are a variety of grapes that are green, purple or bluish black in colors. From these some contain edible seeds while others are seedless.
Table grapes are the popular ones that are eaten as it is or used in a recipe as opposed to wine grapes (used in viniculture) or raisin grapes (used to make dried fruit). There are about thousands of varieties of grapes of which about 20 constitute the majority of table grapes consumed. Color, size, taste and physical characteristics differ amongst the varieties. Grapes come in a variety of colors including green, amber, red, blue-black, and purple. In general, whole grapes have a slightly crunchy texture and a dry, sweet and tart taste.
Grapes are a popular snack in between meals and are as refreshing when added to both fruit and vegetable salad. The combination of crunchy texture, dry, sweet and tart flavor has made grapes an ever trendy fruit. In India, grapes are seasonal and extensively available during the summers. Grapes contains flavonoids and they are phytonutrients that give the vibrant purple color to grapes, grape juice and red wine; the stronger the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoids.
Grapes have a long and rich history. Evidences suggest that the grapes were cultivated in Asia as early as 5000 BC. They also played a role in numerous biblical stories, being referred to as the “fruit of the vine.” Grapes were also pictured in hieroglyphics in ancient Egyptian burial tombs. Grapes were revered for their use in wine making during the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. They were planted in the Rhine Valley in Germany, a place of notable wine production, in the 2nd century AD. Around this time, over 90 varieties of grapes were already known.
European travelers had brought the grape with them while exploring the globe. They were first planted in the United States in the early 17th century at a Spanish mission in New Mexico. From there, they quickly spread to the central valley of California where climate, and absence of grape-preying insects, best supported their production. In the late 19th century, almost all varieties of the vinifera grapes in France were destroyed by an insect that was unintentionally brought from North America. Fortunately, agriculturists crossbred some of the vinifera variety with the American labrusca variety and were able to continue the cultivation of grapes in this region, one that is famous for its grapes and wine.
Currently, Italy, France, Spain, the United States, Mexico and Chile are among the largest commercial producers of grapes. Grapes can be eaten raw or they can be used for making jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts, raisins, and grape seed oil. Grapes are also used in some kinds of confectionery. Grapes grow in clusters of 15 to 300.
Seedless cultivars now make up the overwhelming majority of table grape plantings. There are several sources of the seedless trait, and essentially all commercial cultivators get it from one of three sources: Thompson Seedless, Russian Seedless, and Black Monukka, all being cultivars of Vitis vinifera. There are currently more than a dozen varieties of seedless grapes.
In most of European countries, dried grapes are referred to as “raisins” or the local equivalent. A raisin is any dried grape. While raisin is a French loanword, the word in French refers to the fresh fruit; grappe (from which the English grape is derived). A sultana was originally a raisin made from a specific type of grape of Turkish origin, but the word is now applied to raisins made from common grapes and chemically treated to resemble the traditional sultana.
While buying the fresh grapes choose the ones that are plump free from wrinkles, juicy sweet and should be firmly attached to a healthy looking stem. One way to appraise 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 refrigerator for several days.
Grapes should be washed under cold running water right before consuming or using in a recipe. After washing, either drain the grapes in a colander or gently pat them dry. If you are not going to consume the whole bunch at one time, use scissors to separate small clusters of grapes from the stem instead of removing individual grapes. This will help keep the remaining grapes fresher by preventing the stem from drying out. Use seedless grapes in your recipes whenever possible. You will find them much more pleasant to eat.
Grapes are excellent sources of manganese and good sources of vitamin B6, thiamin (vitamin B1), potassium, and vitamin C. The health benefits of grapes include its ability to treat constipation, indigestion, fatigue, kidney disorders, macular degeneration and prevention of cataract. Grapes, one of the most delicious fruits, are rich sources of vitamins A, C, B6 and folate in addition to essential minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. Grapes contain flavonoids that are very powerful antioxidants, which can reduce the damage caused by free radicals and slacken ageing. Good blood and body builder, it is also a quick source of energy.
The nutritional values per 100 g of purple or green grapes are:
Energy: 288 kJ (69 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 18.1 g
Sugars: 15.48 g
Dietary fiber: 0.9 g
Fat: 0.16 g
Protein: 0.72 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1): 0.069 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2): 0.07 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3): 0.188 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.086 mg
Vitamin C: 10.8 mg
Vitamin K: 22 μg
Calcium: 10 mg
Iron: 0.36 mg
Magnesium: 7 mg
Manganese: 0.071 mg
Phosphorus: 20 mg
Potassium: 191 mg
Sodium: 3.02 mg
Zinc: 0.07 mg