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The history of the grape is at least as old as the history of mankind. The earliest grape consumers were probably hunter/gatherers who included the wild fruit in their diet along with such savory delicacies as woolly mammoth and wild boar. Grapes didn’t remain wild for very long. Archaeologists tell us that grapes were, in fact, one of the earliest cultivated fruits on earth. The grape that became known as “vitis vinifera” originated in the Black Sea region and spread rapidly southward to the Middle East. According to the best estimates, grapes were being cultivated in Mesopotamia as early as 6,000 BC. From there, the vinifera grape spread eastward to Phoenicia and Egypt and by 2,000 BC, Phoenician sailors were ferrying grapevines across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece and many other countries in this region.
Wine making was a primary use for grapes from the beginning, but the ancient Greeks were the first civilization to make a serious practice of grape growing and winemaking. The Greeks even had a god of the vine – Dionysus (later Bacchus). Early efforts to make a drinkable beverage out of grapes were mixed. With no refrigeration, uncontrolled fermentation, and lack of proper sanitation, ancient Greek wines were, at best, an acquired taste. Because of spoilage, the thick, dark, and syrupy Greek wines were usually diluted with water and "flavored" with herbs, honey, white barley, and even grated goat’s milk cheese.
It was the Romans who refined the art of grape-growing and processing. They introduced pruning by knife and proper filtering and storage. The Romans also understood how much climate, soil, and pruning style could affect grape flavor. The art of grape-growing declined along with Roman civilization after 400 AD. Only the Catholic Church kept the practice alive through Medieval times, particularly the Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys of France and Germany. Their wines led to a gradual resurgence in wine cultivation.
As knowledge of plant biology, grafting, and hybridization expanded over time, so did the varieties of grapes and their uses. Soon there were "table" grapes grown especially for eating. Dessert grapes. Raisin grapes. And of course, the many varieties of wine grapes, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. However, it wasn’t until pasteurization and the pioneering work of Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch in 1869 that unfermented grape juice became a popular beverage.
The grapevine is a climbing arbor which requires a strong support for its growth. Grapes grow in clusters ranging from 6 to 300. They can be crimson, black, dark blue, pale yellow, purple, green or pink in color and contain natural sugar and dietary fiber along with potassium and iron. They taste sour when unripe because of the malic acid they contain. As the grapes ripen, the malic acid content reduces and they taste sweet.
There are more than a thousand varieties, out of which only around 50 have commercial significance. Some of them are- Alicante, Barsana, Alphonse Lavallee, Calmeria, Cardinal, Catawba, Chasselas/Golden Chasselas, Concord, Delaware, Emperor, Hanepoot (Honeypot), Italia, Kishmish, Malaga, Niagara, Ribier and many more. Both red and green grapes are different species of grapes, which belong to the genus of fruits known as Vitus and are found in abundance, all over the world. Green grapes are also known as white grapes and wine made from either red or green grapes is extremely popular and consumed worldwide.
The question most frequently asked when comparing both these species of grapes - What is the difference between red and green grapes?
The reddish black color of red grapes is due to the flavonoids, an antioxidant compound that it contains. Red grapes are known to have a number of health benefits due to the high content of nutrients, especially vitamins C and B, proteins, copper, anthocyanins, manganese and potassium, that it contains. It is also low in calories and high in the content of dietary fiber. A cup of red grapes will have just 61 calories which makes it an ideal snack, especially for those looking to lose or maintain their weight. Red grapes and red wine contain an important flavonoid, known as resveratrol, which imparts important health benefits, as explained further in the next section.
They are the species of grapes that are available all year round and have a high nutritional value. They are rich in carbohydrates and vitamin C and vitamin K, low in calories, saturated fat and sodium and absolutely free of cholesterol. Flavonoid antioxidants known as Catechins are also present in the white or green grape species.
Difference between Red Grapes and Green Grapes
Most nutritionists and health experts would recommend consuming more red grapes than green grapes. The reason for this would be the high content of antioxidants red grapes contain, as compared to the green ones. Also, if we compare the calories, the latter contains a slightly higher amount of calories as compared to the former. Green grapes also lack anthocyanins, which red grapes contain in high amounts. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that have been shown in recent research studies to act as a "sunscreen", protecting cells from high-light damage by absorbing blue-green and UV light.
As mentioned above, red grapes contain flavonoid antioxidants like Resveratrol, Catechins and Quercetin while green grapes contain just small amounts of catechins. Flavonoid antioxidants are what give red grapes their reddish-purple color and the darker the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoid antioxidants. Of these, Resveratrol and Quercetin are the most important antioxidant compounds and they have important health benefits which include lowering high blood pressure, prevention of heart related disorders and protecting good cholesterol. Resveratrol is known to aid the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and also has antifungal and anticancer properties.
However, since both are good for health and taste good too, why not enjoy the benefits of both rather than choosing one over the other.
Selection tips: Select grapes that are plump, full-colored, and firmly attached to their stems. Look for a slight pale-yellow hue on green grapes, while red grapes should be deeply colored with no sign of green.
Storage tips: Unwashed grapes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, although their quality diminishes the longer you keep them.
How to eat them: Remove grapes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to get them to their ideal temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Before eating, wash them thoroughly (most supermarket grapes have been sprayed with insecticide - you may want to buy organic grapes) and blot dry. Table grapes aren't just meant for eating out of hand; you can use them fresh in salads, pies, or other desserts; or frozen, as a garnish or frosty snack.
Peak growing season: You can buy grapes year-round, although the North American versions (mostly from California) are only available from July to December.
Grape Ricotta Breakfast Pizza
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Pour the oil on a 12-inch round pizza pan. Place dough on pan and turn to coat with the oil. Gently stretch dough to fit pan.
Scatter grapes on top of dough and sprinkle fennel over all. Bake in oven, rotating the pan halfway through, until dough is brown and grapes reduce in size, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper over all. Place tablespoons of ricotta evenly around the pizza.
Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Slice into eight wedges and serve warm.
Arugula Salad with Shrimp and Grapes
4 servings (serving size: 2 cups)
To prepare dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.
To prepare salad, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add shrimp; cook 1 minute. Add celery; cook 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; pat dry.
Place shrimp, celery, arugula, grapes, and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Top with cheese and walnuts.
Italian Spritz Cocktail
* Aperol is an Italian orange liqueur. It has become Italy’s most popular light spirit. Aperol Spritz is one of the lightest cocktails having only 7 to 8% alcohol by volume
Fill a glass (white wine glass) 1/4 full with ice cubes (you want to chill the drink but not water it down). Pour in the Prosecco and then top with Aperol. Add the soda water. Stir gently until mixed.
Garnish with an orange slice a green olive.
Makes 1 serving.
Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the sweet onion, fennel, and leeks and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, lower heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for 5 more minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or you can use an immersion blender) and puree the soup until smooth. Add up to 1/2 cup water to thin. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill.
Make the Grape Salsa: Combine grapes, 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds, lemon zest, remaining salt, and pepper in a small bowl. To serve, whisk yogurt, 1/4 cup water, and lemon juice into the chilled soup. If necessary, thin with water to desired consistency. Serve soup cold, garnished with seasoned grapes.
Chicken Cutlets with Grape Shallot Sauce
Serve with brown basmati rice and Sauteed Greens
Place flour in a shallow dish and add Italian dried herbs. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour (reserve excess flour). Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on the first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, turn the chicken and cook until the other side is golden, 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 5 teaspoons of the reserved flour; stir to coat. Add wine and broth; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in parsley.
Return the chicken to the pan, turning to coat with sauce, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top.
Roasted Red Grapes with Mascarpone and Rum
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.
In a large bowl, gently toss the grape clusters, 2 teaspoons of the honey, the oil, and the salt. Spread the grapes on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast, flipping halfway through, until collapsed, juicy, and somewhat caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together the mascarpone, rum, zest, and remaining 2 teaspoons honey in a medium bowl.
Transfer the roasted grapes to serving dishes and serve warm, with a dollop of the sweetened mascarpone.