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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Grapes Revisited

Grapes Revisited:

About:

A grape is a fruiting berry of the deciduous wood vines of the botanical genus "Vitus".   
Grapes grow in clusters of 15 to 300 grapes, and can be crimson, yellow, black, dark blue, green, orange, or pink.  What are referred to as "white" grapes are actually green.   Grapes can be eaten raw or used in making wine, jam, jelly, juice, grape seed extract, raisins, vinegar, and grape seed oil.

Commercially cultivated grapes are classified as table grapes or wine grapes.  Table grapes tend to be larger, seedless, and have thin skin.  Wine grapes are usually seeded (with seeds), smaller, and relatively thicker skinned.  Wine grapes also tend to have a higher sugar content.  The cultivation of grapes began 6000 to 8000 years ago in the Near East.  Yeast, one of the earliest domesticated microorganisms, occurs naturally on the skins of grapes, leading to the innovation of alcoholic drinks such as wine.   The earliest evidence of wine-making dates back 8000 years in Georgia.

My Story:  


Growing up I remember grapes being around, but usually they had seeds, so we didn't bother with them that much.  What I remember more was my grandfather on my mother's side having a jug of his home-made wine  on the floor by his foot under the dinner table.  My father would mix the wine with some ginger ale and give it to me.   My father used to tell the story of when his father had the grocery store and had one of the cousins working for him.  Well, Grandpa Schiera used to make wine in the cellar of the store. Back then soda was sold in glass bottles and a deposit for the bottle was charged.   After the bottle was empty you could return it to the store and get the deposit  back.  It was a great way for us kids to make some money by collecting up the empties and returning them to the store.   When the store received the bottles they would have to be separated and organized to return to the bottling company.   Well, this cousin seemed to love separating the bottles in the cellar.  He was constantly asking, "Uncle Joe, can I go down and work on the bottles?"  He did a good job but something just didn't seem right.  Finally, Grandpa followed him down to the cellar and stood in the shadows to watch, only to find out the kid was doing the bottles ok, but he was also drinking some of the wine.  He always seemed so happy when he came back up after doing the bottles.

Varieties of Grapes:


While there are no reliable statistics breaking down grape production  by variety, it is believed the most cultivated is the Sultana, also know as the Thompson Seedless.  Next is the Airen variety.  Others varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache, Tempranillo, Reisling, and Chardonnay.
Juice is obtained from crushing and blending grapes into a liquid.  The juice is sold as such or fermented and made into wine, brandy, or vinegar.  The raisin is a dried grape.

Health Benefits:


Grapes contain phytochemicals that have been positively linked to inhibiting cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, viral infections, and mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease.  Grape seed  oil from crushed seeds is used in cosmeceuticals and skin care products.  Commercial juice products from Concord grapes show potential benefits against onset stage cancer, platelet aggregation and other risk factors of Atherosclerosis, loss of physical performance and mental acuity during aging.  Grapes have long been classified as a low glycemic index food.  Studies have connected grape intake to better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity. 

Selecting and Storing:

Fully ripened grapes are plump and free from wrinkles.  They should be intact firmly attached to a healthy looking stem and not leaking juice.   The sweetness of grapes can be predicted by the color of the grapes.  Green grapes are medium sweet.  Red grapes are very sweet.  Blue- black grapes are the least sweet.  
Store unwashed grapes loosely wrapped in a paper towl in an airtight container or plastic bag.  They will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Concerns:

Consumption of grapes and raisins are a potential health risk to dogs.  Toxicity can cause acute renal failure with anuria and may be fatal.  No grapes or raisins for your dog.

Enjoying Grapes:

Grapes retain their maximum amount of nutrientsand their maximum taste when the are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe.  Cooking temperatures in baking can samage some of the unique and delicate phytonutrients found in grapes.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy! I'll show you how.
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