“Beulah, peel me a grape.” — Mae West
Plump, juicy grapes in rich royal jewel tones have invaded supermarket aisles and farmers market stands, piled high in luscious mounds. When you pop a cold one in your mouth, the sweet juices burst into thirst-quenching ambrosia.
A Methuselah fruit, grapes have been hanging around for more than 8,000 years. They were first cultivated domestically in the Near East, where the craft of winemaking seems to have developed as a natural progression of cultivation. Enjoy this botanical berry at its peak this summer.
Cabernet for the Cure
Grapes, especially the red, purple and black varieties are loaded with antioxidants called bioflavonoids that pack a powerful anti-cancer punch. Grape skin, a rich source of resveratro synonymous with wine, has been found to put the skids on enzymes that stimulate cancer cell growth. Drinking more than one glass of wine a day, on the other hand, has been linked to increasing breast cancer risk. So swap that second glass of Merlot for some fresh concords or a swig of grape juice. Resveratrol has also been linked to longevity by the activation of three anti-aging genes.
Just one handful of grapes a day will pump iron into your blood, Vitamin C and other antioxidants into your immune system, a load of fiber into your intestines to keep your constitution regular. A mother lode of Vitamin A and lutein grapes will boost ocular health. The noble berry is packed with folate, potassium and anti-inflammatory quercetin to ward off free radicals and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Seedy Side of Grapes
Conventionally grown grapes appear on the notorious “Dirty Dozen” list of the most heavily pesticide-laced crops. A single sample tested had contained 15 pesticides. Standing advice — buy organic.
The Grapes of Math
• Spanish explorers introduced grapes to America roughly three centuries ago.
• There are some 8,000 varieties of grapes worldwide with 60 species, primarily American and European.
• One cup of grapes is a mere 100 calories.
• 2.5 pounds (or 600 to 800 wine grapes) yield one bottle of wine.
• 10 percent of U.S. grapes are grown organically.
• 72 million tons of grapes are grown around the world, with 300,000 tons in California alone. My cup runneth over as the majority of these grapes (71 percent) are used to produce wine — more than
7.2 trillion gallons.
This season try expanding your grape horizons beyond the pedestrian Thompson green seedless. Grape up with small, sweet and crunchy vibrantly violet Black Corinths, aka Champagne grapes.
Try a bunch of large, dark purple ellipsoidal Autumn Royals. Sample sweet, thick-skinned Emperors with cherry nuances. Silky Bronx grapes are reminiscent of muscats. Bright red, crunchy Cardinals, are a cross between the sweet-tart Red Flames and bitter-skinned, sweet-fleshed Ribiers. How about trying the crisp, juicy green Perlettes with a frosty coating?
Thanks a Bunch
These flavorful refreshers, whether black, red, purple, green, yellow or pink make great snacks, especially exhilarating when frozen. They pair well with cheese platters, chicken, seafood, fruit or Waldorf salads, and turkey wraps. You can toss them in with Brussels sprouts, noodle stir-fries, taboulehs, grilled duck or wild caught salmon dishes.
Blend in rice pudding, combine with mint and berries for a pick-me-up smoothie, add a sweet and tart kick to salsas, chutneys and preserves, or whip up this delightful grape gazpacho to cool your heels on a sizzling summer afternoon. u
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Sweet and Savory Grape Gazpacho
• 1 pound or 2 cups of seedless green grapes
• 1 Persian cucumber, chopped
• 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
• 1 cup of Greek yoghurt
• 1/4 cup of white grape juice, adjust to desired consistency
• Juice from one lime
• 2 scallions, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup of Marcona almonds or blanched almonds
• Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
■ Method: In a food processor combine the yoghurt, juices, scallions, seasongs, and half the grapes, cucumber, apple and almonds. Process until silky smooth. Add the other half of the ingredients and pulse until coarsely chopped and blended. Chill for 2 hours and ladle into cocktail glasses. Garnish with grape halves and mint leaves.