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).

An Ever-Popular Snack

The combination of crunchy texture and dry, sweet, tart flavor has made grapes an ever popular between meal snack as well as a refreshing addition to both fruit and vegetable salads. American varieties are available in September and October while European varieties are available year round.

Grapes contain beneficial compounds called flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that give the vibrant purple color to grapes, grape juice and red wine; the stronger the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoids.

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…

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

Grape Factoids

  • Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings dating to 2440 B.C.E. Portray Egyptians cultivating grapes.
  • Grapevines generally bear between fifteen and eighty pounds of grapes every year for up to one hundred years.
  • A cluster of grapes yields between six and three hundred berries.
  • Birds tend to peck unprotected grapes. The damaged grapes then tend to attract bees and wasps.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the grapes harvested in the world are used to make wine.

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.

Selecting Grapes

grape-treeLook 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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).

Grapes Nuggets

  • 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.

The Three Main Species of Grapes

  1. European grapes (Vitis vinifera):
    Varieties include Thompson (seedless and amber-green in color), Emperor (seeded and purple in color) and Champagne/Black Corinth (tiny in size and purple in color). European varieties feature skins that adhere closely to their flesh.
  2. North American grapes (Vitis labrusca and Vitis rotundifolia):
    Varieties include Concord (blue-black in color and large in size), Delaware (pink-red in color with a tender skin) and Niagara (amber colored and less sweet than other varieties). North American varieties feature skins that more easily slip away from their flesh.
  3. French hybrids: These were developed from the vinifera grapes after the majority of grape varieties were destroyed in Europe in the 19th century.

Grapes should be plump and firmly attached to a green stem. Good color for type of grape, not faded. Grapes do not ripen off the vine, so be certain that they are ripe when chosen. Buy a small quantity and taste. When refrigerated, grapes will last five to seven days.

All grapes are really berries and are native to Asia Minor where they were cultivated for 6000 years. Grapes are now grown on six continents.

California produces 97 percent and Arizona produces 3 percent of all European varieties grown in the United States.

Try to use seedless grapes in your recipes whenever possible. You will find them much more pleasant to eat.

Safety: If you are drinking grape juice for health benefits, avoid products labeled as grape “drinks.” This is often an imitation high-sugar product with little real grape juice.

Grapes Varieties

Grapes varieties

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.

Let’s read about some most commonly available grapes.

Green Grapes

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

Green grapes

Purple Grapes

  • 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.

purple grapes

Red Grapes

  • 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.

red grapes

Other Common Grapes Varieties:

  • Black Beauty:  The only seedless black grape.
  • Calmeria:  Large dark red grapes with a light gray finish. Has very few seeds.
  • Champagne:  Used to make currents. Usually a gourmet product.
  • Concord:  Major variety of American grape. Blue/black with a sweet but somewhat tart flavor.
  • Delaware:  Small pink colored grape with a tender skin.
  • Emperor:  One of the most popular small grape. Reddish/purple in color and seedless.
  • Exotic:  Blue/black in color and have seeds.
  • Flame Seedless:  Deep red and seedless. About the same size as the Emperor but somewhat more tart.
  • Italia:  Muscat, mainly for wine making. Green/gold grape with seeds.
  • Niagara:  Large amber colored grape, may be somewhat egg shaped. Not as sweet as most other varieties.
  • Perlette Seedless:  Green grape imported from Mexico.
  • Queen:  Red, large grape that has a mild sweet flavor.
  • Red Globe:  Very large grape with large seeds and a delicate flavor.
  • Red Malaga:  Thick skinned reddish somewhat sweet grape.
  • Ribier:  Large blue-black grape with tender skins.
  • Ruby Seedless:  Deep red grape, very sweet.
  • Steuben:  A blue black grape similar to the Concord.
  • Thompson Seedless:  Everybody’s favorite. The most common grape sold in the United States. Small green sweet grape. Common raisin grape.
  • Tokay:  Sweeter version of the Flame Seedless.

Quick Serving Ideas for Grapes:

  • Serve stewed and spiced grapes with poached chicken breast for a light and healthy entree.
  • Grapes are a wonderful addition to any fruit salad. For an enhanced visual effect, consider using a few different varieties of grapes.
  • Give your curries a fruity punch by including fresh grapes in the recipe.
  • Add grapes to mixed green salads.
  • Grapes are great served with cheese as a snack or within a green salad.

Those Sour Grapes!

The phrase “sour grapes”, meaning a show of disdain for something you cannot have, originated from Aesop’s fable, “The Fox and the Grapes”. In the fable, a fox was unable to reach a bunch of grapes and says, “I am sure the grapes are sour“.

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.

Read More: Food Facts