Grapes (Vitis vinifera L) are actually berries that grow in bunches on long, twining vines that can produce up to 50 bunches per season. Grapevines can produce for up to 60 years or even longer. Grapes are one of the most important fruits. Internationally more grapes are being traded than apples, pears and oranges combined. However, the majority of the grapes are used for wine production. Only about 10 % are sold as table grapes for fresh consumption and about 5 % are dried.
They are thus classified according to their use as table or wine grapes or raisins. Grapes, which are sold under the Nature & More label are exclusively table grapes. These are further differentiated in white grapes (with an actual colour range from green to light yellow or golden), red grapes (ranging from dark pink to violet) and black grapes (deep purple or intensive blue). These are available in seeded or seedless varieties. The best table grapes are sweet, have large berries and few or no seeds.
Grapes used to be valued in ancient times for their healing properties instead as a food. Famous physicians, such as Hippocrates, Galen and Celsus used grapes medicinally. Grapes are rich in fruit sugar, etheric oils, calcium and tannic acid. Black grapes also contain a substantial amount of iron. Fresh grape-juice promotes the flow of urine and promotes digestion. It has a cleansing effect on the organism and counteracts acidity. A grape diet is an excellent method to rid the body of impurities and to strengthen the immune system. But grapes are also successfully employed in the cure liver, kidney and gastric disorders, as well as rheumatism, gout, bronchitis and other lung diseases. Although grapes stimulate appetite, they have also been found to be effective in losing weight. Like most foods, it is important to chew grapes well.
Grapes belong to the oldest plants on earth, much older than the human being. Archeological finds indicate that several varieties of wild vines existed already 130 million years ago.
The exact origin is unknown. The most likely origin is from the regions around the Caspian Sea, where grapes have been cultivated when the Mesopotamian town Ur was at the peak of its development. Via the countries around the Black Sea they were eventually introduced into Greece. From here they reached France, when Greek colonists settled around Marseille in the 6th century BC. From there the Romans spread them further throughout Europe and the Spaniards took them along their explorations to the New World. Grapes arrived in South Africa in the 1650's with the original settlement party, led by Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company.
Table grapes are a fairly recent development. Prior to the 16th century grapes were exclusively used for making wine. The French King Francois I preferred a particular Chasselas grape as dessert and can thus be considered the originator of the table grape. At first the enjoyment of table grapes was limited to local production, but since the introduction of cold storage on board ships the exporting became feasible.
Serving size: 100 grams
Crisp berries of a uniform size and color are the best indicator of ripe grapes. When selecting grapes, make sure that they are fresh and plump and tightly connected to the stem. They should not fall off the stem, but yield after pulling slightly. Avoid grapes with brown spots, although yellow spots are not necessarily a blemish. The most brightly coloured grapes are often also the sweetest. Soft grapes with dark spots should be avoided. The very thin powdery layer of wax protects the grapes and is an important criteria for freshness.
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. Grapes develop their optimum flavour at room temperature, so it is best to take them out of the fridge 20 min before serving.