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Kiwifruit »« Grapefruit

Grapes

Vitis vinifera


Description

Is there any fruit that better proves that fruit is nature’s lollies? Sweet, crunchy, juicy grapes are just as at home in a salad as in a bowl on your lap. Bet you can’t stop at one.

There are more than 8000 varieties of grapes, but many of these, of course, are for making wine rather than eating. Grapes are used for making all sorts of things, including vinegar, jam, grapeseed oil, spirits, and the leavening agent cream of tartar. It’s because of this versatility that grapes are second only to olives as the world’s most widely cultivated fruit.

Grapes are a good source of vitamins B and C, fibre, potassium, and protein. Red grape skin (and red wine) contains reservatrol, a compound that may have anticancer and antioxidant properties.

Green or red, seedless or not, it’s up to you to choose the grapes you like best. If you’re buying green grapes, they should be a pale yellow green rather than a bright grassy colour. With red grapes, the deeper the colour, the better the flavour will be. Choose bunches with plump fruits that are still firmly attached to the stems – if in doubt, give the bunch a little shake, and if it’s too old grapes will fall off it. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week, but don’t wash them until you’re just about to eat them as it will dilute their flavour.

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History

Because they’re so useful, grapes have played a role in human civilisation for thousands of years. There’s evidence to suggest they were cultivated in Asia as long ago as 5000BC, images of grapes appear in Egyptian burial tombs, and they’re mentioned in the Bible.

The Greeks and Romans were very fond of wine, both civilisations even having a god (Dionysus and Bacchus respectively) devoted to it. The Rhine Valley in Germany, an area still renowned for winemaking, has had vines growing there since the second century AD.

Grapes have been grown in New Zealand since early settler times. While New Zealand has an international reputation for producing excellent wines, especially Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this has only been the case since the late 1970s.

Uses

Grapes are a great addition to a cheese board, as well as fruit salad or fruit kebabs. Try adding a few halved grapes to a creamy curry for some extra fruitiness, or stew them with spices such as cinnamon for an interesting accompaniment to white meat.

Facts

Both sultanas and raisins are just dried grapes – sultanas are dried green grapes, whereas raisins are dried red ones.

In France, asparagus is sometimes grown with grapevines.

It takes just over 1kg of grapes to produce a single bottle of wine.



Kiwifruit »« Grapefruit

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