According to archeological evidence, grapes are among the most ancient fruits on Earth. However, its cultivation began 6,000-8,000 years ago in the Near East, when peoples gave up the nomadic life to finally settle down.
We can find purple grapes in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as written records about its cultivation and consumption (both for eating and wine production) among the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans, often describing it as food of the Gods.
The growing of grapes (mainly Vitis Vinifera) would later spread to other regions in Europe and North Africa, and eventually in North America, where wild grapes – unsuitable for winemaking – were already part of the diet of Native Americans.
Red, white, and rosé: there are an estimated 10,000 types of grapes in the Vitace family, but only 1300 are used to produce wines. There are many other uses for this “divine” fruit!
Let’s have a look!
Healthy, tasty with a limitless potential
- Table grapes belong to the same species as wine grapes but have quite a few differences: larger, seedless, and with a thinner skin. As the name suggests, this is the type of vine fruit that you will be eating raw. They account for about 36% of the total production of grapes worldwide.
- Wine grapes are cultivated in all the world’s major wine regions. The fruits are smaller, sweeter, with seeds and a thick skin – as the aroma comes from it. To make the wine, they will be harvested when their sugar peak will reach 24% of their total weight. Wine grapes make for 57% of the total worldwide production of “God’s fruit.”
- Raisins are dried grapes that can be eaten raw or used in cooking and baking. Their varieties depend on the grapes used; hence they can be different colors and sizes, and sometimes even names (e.g., currants, sultanas, golden raisins). Raising are traditionally sun-dried, but nowadays they can get artificially dehydrated and often treated with preservative.
Raisins make for 7% of total grapes productions – about 1,3 million tons- and the top three producing countries are Turkey, the USA, and China.
- Grape juice is made from crushing and blending the fruit into a liquid and can be an excellent alcohol-free alternative to wine. Just like grapes, the juice has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s often used as a detox drink. In 1869, in New Jersey, Dr. Thomas Welch was the first to produce unfermented grape juice. The variety used was Concord grape: robust and aromatic but above all, a perfect mix between the Native American species and the European ones, able to cope with the first autumn frost.
In 1918, Dr. Welch created “Grapelade,” a modern version of an old fashion Jam, distributed to the soldier in WW1 as part of their ration. It became such a success in a few years that a retail version was launched in 1923.
- Let’s not forget about wine vinegar! Like wine, it can be either white or red, and it’s produced by the process of fermentation and oxidization into an acid. On top of being an irreplaceable item for cooking, baking, or salads, it can also be used for many cleaning purposes.
- In most Mediterranean countries and in some parts of Asia, grape leaves (also called vine leaves ) are stuffed with a mix of rice, veggies, meat, and spices to make a succulent appetizer.
We do get another two exceptional products from the wine industry’s byproducts: grape seed oil and cream of tartar.
- Grape seed oil is used in cooking and is quite popular in the cosmetic industry due to its high content of Vitamin E and Omega 6 fatty- acid.
- If you are familiar with baking, you have most certainly heard about the cream of tartar before!
This magic ingredient is found in the sediment left behind in barrels after the wine has been fermented, and it gets purified into the powdery white substance.
The world produces just a little bit less than 78 million tons of grapes every year, making China, Italy, USA, Spain, and France the market leaders!
Tasty, healthy snack option with limitless potential!
Grapes are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and packed with antioxidants, and as we have seen, there are lots of ways you can add them to your diet.
Looking for some more ideas?
Freeze some of the fruits, use them instead of ice cubes in drinks, or naturally sweeten your smoothies!
We are now in the harvest season: don’t miss out on finding out what type of grapes are available in your area, and savor the different flavors.