Grape Expectations

Available in a rainbow of sparkling hues, grapes provide nutrition on the go.

By Lisa James

July/August 2011


Summer’s high heat and long evenings make it a popular season for quick, light meals—and for grapes, the perfect portable food.

Unlike a lot of other packable snacks, grapes are good for you. They provide vitamins C and K along with the minerals copper and manganese. Red grapes contain lutein, which helps maintain eye health. But the best-known grape compound is resveratrol, a phytonutrient noted for its ability to protect the cardiovascular system and to help forestall cancer development.

Grapes come in dozens of varieties, many of which are used for winemaking, raisins and juice. Those intended for out-of-hand eating, called table grapes, are available in green, red and black, seeded or seedless. Most come from Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine, with the vast majority grown in California. These grapes tend to have firmer flesh and a higher sugar content. Native North American varieties, such as Concords and muscadines, tend to be juicier with tougher skins.

When buying grapes, look for plump, wrinkle-free berries without cuts, cracks or leaking juice. They should be firmly attached to healthy-looking stems. Grapes are best when bought at peak ripeness; green ones should have a slightly yellow tinge, red grapes should be mostly red and black grapes should be deeply colored. Some grapes show a whitish coating called bloom, which helps protect against moisture loss.

Keep grapes in a plastic bag placed in the coldest part of your refrigerator and wash just before using. If you don’t need the whole bunch at once, cut off stems with scissors instead of pulling off individual grapes; this helps prevent the rest of the bunch from drying out. For a cool treat, freeze individual grapes or small clusters after washing and drying thoroughly, and eat them straight from the freezer.

Grapes are great on picnics and trips to the beach. (For hikes and other vigorous excursions that don’t involve coolers, raisins are a better choice). Grapes pair naturally with cheese; a platter of different cheeses and grapes in all three colors makes the perfect ending to any meal. Grapes also add flavor and texture to salads and to blender creations such as the salsa recipe below.

As the song says, it’s summertime and the living is easy. Grapes provide taste and nutrition in a refreshing, convenient package.

 

ET Recipe

Green Grape & Tomatillo Salsa

8 oz tomatillos,* husked and rinsed (about 5-8 fruits)
1 3/4 cups seedless green grapes, separated and rinsed
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, coarsely
chopped (remove the seeds for a milder flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lime juice

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until slightly
coarse in texture. Refrigerate for up to three days.

* A staple of Mexican cuisine, the tomatillo resembles a small tomato with a papery
husk that should be removed before using; look for firm, bright green fruits

Yield: 2 cups. Analysis per quarter cup:
34 calories, 1g protein, 0g fat, 1g fiber,
8g carbohydrate, 147 mg sodium

Reprinted with permission from the California
Table Grape Commission
(www.freshcaliforniagrapes.com)

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