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Glorious Grapes

Glorious grapes

The grape is one of the oldest fruits to be cultivated going back as far as biblical times. Spanish explorers introduced the fruit to America approximately 300 years ago. Some of the most popular ways in which the fruit is used, is eaten fresh, in preserves or canned in jellies, dried into raisins, and crushed for juice or wine. Although, machines have taken the place of much handwork, table grapes are still harvested by hand in many places. (Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, 1992).

Fresh 'n Plump Grapes

Grapes are about 80 percent water, making them a delectable low calorie snack or dessert; a cup of Concord or Catawba grapes contains only about 60 calories. Grapes also add fiber to the diet and are naturally low in sodium. Raisins, or dried grapes, contain only about 15 percent water. For this reason, nutrients and calories are more concentrated in raisins -- one cup contains 464 calories! Like other dried fruit, raisins are a good source of iron. (Serving Size 1-1/2 cups)

Grapes are...

Happy grapes

  • Fat-free
  • Saturated fat-free
  • Sodium-free
  • Cholesterol-free

Varieties of Grapes

Grapes come in more than 50 varieties in black, blue, blue-black, golden, red, green, purple, and white colors with a juicy pulp inside. The two main types of grapes are the American and European. They both come in seeded and seedless varieties. Common varieties include Thompson, Flame, Ruby, Perlette and Tokay grapes. Most U.S. grapes are grown in California.

Selecting Grapes

Look for firm, plump, well colored clusters of grapes that are securely attached to their green stems. Fully ripe grapes are soft and tender. Grapes showing signs of decay, shriveling, sainess, brown spots or dry brittle stems should be avoided. Blue Concord grapes are excellent for table use and for making juice and jelly. The large, purplish-red catawba variety is used primarily for making juice and wine, but can also be served fresh for eating.

Grape Tree

  • Fresh grapes maintain good quality for two to three days in the refrigerator. Store in a covered container or plastic bag.
  • Just before use, wash grape clusters under a gentle spray of water, drain and pat dry.
  • Table grapes are at their best served slightly chilled to enhance their crisp texture and refreshing flavor.
  • Seedless grapes are used whole. For seeded grapes, remove seeds by cutting grapes into halves lengthwise and scooping out seeds with the point of a knife.
  • Grapes are easier to peel when they're frozen. Just rinse frozen grapes in lukewarm water until skins split. Skins will then slip right off.
  • When preparing small clusters of grapes for garnishing, cut the clusters with scissors. This helps keep the grapes attached to the stem.
  • For longer storage, grapes can be canned, frozen or made into juice or sweet spreads to enhance meals throughout the year. Grapes can be dried as raisins for use as a snack or in baking.

Refrigerating grapes for longevity

Canned Grape Facts

  • Seedless grapes can be canned whole for use in fruit salads and molded gelatin desserts. If seeded varieties are used, halve and remove seeds before canning.
  • To prevent mold growth, seal grape jelly with two-piece canning lids and process for five minutes in a simmering water bath.

Washing Grapes

Wash grapes carefully in cool water before using. Grapes are ideal as a luncheon dessert, snack, wine and cheese complement, or garnish. They are also delicious when tossed into a salad, or mixed into yogurt and cereals.

Freezing Grapes

To freeze grapes, wash and pat dry. Place a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid. Once frozen, pack in airtight freezer containers. These are a great snack!

Eat grapes right away or store grapes unwashed in a clear plastic bag separate from other fruit and vegetables in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. Wash with cool water and drain before serving. Grapes can be stored for up to one week.

Using Frozen Grapes

  • Frozen grape juice is of excellent quality -- serve it alone or mixed with other juices. Freeze a few grape "popsicles" for an icy summer treat.
  • Freeze grape puree for use in making grape pie and to flavor yogurt.
  • Tray freeze seedless grapes and store them in freezer containers. When summer temperatures sizzle, chill summer drinks with "grape" ice cubes.
  • For an easy, refreshing summer dessert, serve tray frozen grapes in a chilled glass bowl.

Dried Grapes

  • The quality of dried grapes, or raisins, is excellent.
  • For best results, use seedless grapes. If seeded varieties are used, remove seeds before drying.
  • In areas of high humidity, sun drying is not recommended. For best results, dry grapes in a dehydrator or oven.

Greatness of Grapes

Grapes

  • A cup of red or green grapes has only 100 calories; there's 60 in a cup of Concord grapes.
  • Two recent reports suggest that substances called anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give Concord grape juice its rich color, may help slow the growth of breast-cancer tumors. (The same pigments may help prevent short-term memory loss, too).
  • A new animal study finds antioxidants called polyphenols in grapes protect insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and may help to prevent type 1 diabetes.
  • Compounds found in grapeseeds may offer protection against sun-related skin cancer.

Use of Grapes in Herbalism

  • Herbalists report that grape leaves are anti-inflammatory and astringent and can be taken for diarrhea, heavy menstrual bleeding, and as a medicinal douche (Chevallier 2000).
  • Grapes, when transformed into raisins, juice, or wine, have also found some medical value. The PDR of Herbal Medicines noted that grapes do have an anti-inflammatory effect and may have value for blood circulation disorders.
  • Other researchers have found grapes to contain antioxidants and be of value to the circulatory system (Peirce 1999).

Grape Nuggets

Grapes swinging on a vine

  • Pick grape clusters that have plump berries and are firmly attached to the stem.
  • An amber or honey colored tint on Thompson seedless green grapes means they were left on the vine longer and are really sweet.
  • Stash unwashed grapes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week to keep them fresh.
  • Store grapes far away from scallions and other pungent foods so they won't absorb the flavors.
  • Rinse grapes thoroughly. Most conventionally grown grapes are sprayed with peseticides, so make sure to wash them extra well.

Frosted Grapes

Great Snack! Wash and pat dry 1-1/2 pounds red or green grapes until dry. Freeze for 45 minutes and let stand two minutes before serving.

Homemade Grape Juice

Making your own juice is easy, inexpensive and much healthier for you. For example, wild grapevine grapes (depending where you are wild concord grapes also) are easily frozen and they make an incredible juice. Take a couple of handfuls of grapevine grapes and place them in a pot with about a liter of water. Bring to a boil and turn stove off. Let sit for an hour or two then squeeze the grapes as best as you can. Strain into a juice container and add another liter of water. Add sugar to taste. You can take fresh picked grapes and place them in a freezer bag - remove air - write the date on the bag and freeze until you need them!

Red sumac and Highbush cranberries also freezes well and makes a powerful vitamin C drink. You can follow the same procedure as the grapes for making juice and freezing. If these berries are not found in your area, research what edible berries grow where you live and use these.

In Summary

Grapes: Green

  • About 80 percent water, making a great low calorie snack.
  • Add fiber to the diet.
  • Are naturally low in sodium.

Grapes: Purple

  • Seedless purple grapes provide 110 calories per 1-cup serving
  • Purple grapes are also a source of calcium, providing 13 milligrams per cup
  • Resveratrol in purple grapes, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, has been linked to heart health.
  • Very low in sodium (13 milligrams per cup)
  • Diet tip: Choose a cup of grapes over candy to curb a sweet tooth.

Grapes: Red

  • There are only 60 calories in a 1/2 cup serving of red seedless grapes.
  • A rich source of cancer-fighting proanthocyanidins is in the skin.
  • Add fiber to the diet.
  • Are naturally low in sodium.

Chocolate Grape Tartlets Recipe Card

Chocolate Grape Tartlets Recipe Card

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