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Grapes
 

Grape is a climacteric fruit that grows on the perennial and deciduous woody vines of the genus Vitis. Grapes are small round or oval berries, which have a translucent flesh, and a smooth textured skin. They sometimes have seeds, which are edible, but most of the varieties are seedless. The grapes, which are eaten are called table grapes, the ones used in the fabrication of wine are called wine grapes, and the ones used to make resins are called resin grapes.

Different varieties of grapes range in colour, size, taste and physical characteristics. The colors range from green, amber, red, blue-black, and purple. In general, whole grapes have a slightly crunchy texture and have a dry, sweet and tart taste. Grapes generally grow in clusters of 6 to 300

 
The fruit is an excellent source of manganese, Vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium and Vitamin C. Grapes contain flavnoids:phytochemicals that are antioxidant compounds. While there are thousands of varieties of grapes, only about 20 varieties are actually consumed as a table variety.
 

Wine Grape Varieties

  • Semillon: This variety of grapes is a thin skinned variety. It ripens early, and is used mainly in Bordeaux in France. It has a grassy, "figgy" flavor. It is also grown in Australia and California, and is sometimes blended with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Noir: These grapes are extremely sensitive to conditions, are soft and ripen early. They are often used in red wines and are also used without their skin as a white ingredient in Champagne. Pinot Noir wine is fabricated in Burgundy, and also in Australia, California, Oregon, Italy and Germany.
  • Pinot Gris: This grape is an exact replica of the Pinot Noir, grown in France, Germany, Austria and along the west coast of the US. It's also known as Rulander or Grauer Burgunder. It can be used to create both fine whites and roses
  • Vidal Blanc: Vidal is primarily grown in the northeast US, and is very hearty. It does well in late harvest sweet wines, as well as in ice wines
  • Pinot Blanc: This grape has a flavour much like that of the Chardonnay wine. It is grown in Alsace, Italy, and Austria. It is an extended variety of the Pinot Gris grape and is mainly used in the fabrication of Californian sparkling wines
  • Chardonnay: This variety is a fresh, fruity grape, which is grown in Burgundy, Champagne, California, Australia, and South Africa. It buds early, grows easily and has high ripeness levels. The wine made from these grapes has a fruity flavour, tasting like melon, peach, etc. It also sometimes has an oaky flavor. It is one of the most popular and easiest to grow white grape
  • Gewurztraminer: It is a German variety, which literally means spicy. This variety has a floral taste with nutty tones. This variety is also grown in Italy, California, Canada and Australia
  • Riesling: It is a dessert variety grape, which produces dry, crisp and fruity wine. Riesling wine is native to Germany, but can also be found in France, Australia, California, and many other countries
  • Gamay: This variety of grapes is used in Beaujolais Nouveau wine, fabricated in France. This wine is drunk young.
  • Siegerrebe: This variety is a cross between Gewurtztraminer and a normal table grape. It ripens very early, and has a high sugar content. Wines made from this variety taste like peach and honey
  • Grenache: It is used for the fabrication of rose wine, and is widely grown in France, Spain and California. It is the second most planted grape in the world.
 

Selecting and Storing Grapes
Plump and wrinkle free grapes attached to a healthy stem are an ideal pick. While selecting, make sure you pick up intact grapes, whose juice is not leaking. The colour of grapes are easy identifiers of the sweet variety. Green grapes with a slight yellow hue are sweet, and so are extremely red and deep purple and deep black grapes. The more ripe the grapes are, the more antioxidants they have.

The fruit spoils if kept at room temperature, as it starts fermenting; care should be taken to always refrigerate the grapes. Ideal way to store them, and keep them fresh for longer is to wrap them in a paper towel and place then in a polythene bag, into the refrigerator.

 
Uses of Grapes
Grapes are best eaten raw, but can also be consumed in some interesting forms and recipes like:
  • Grapes are often used to manufacture jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts and grape seed oil
  • Stewed and spiced grapes with poached chicken breast make for an ideal meal
  • Grapes may be added to any fruit salad. To enhance the visual effect of a salad, one can use different colours of grapes
  • The fruit can be added to any receipe to give the dish a fruity punch
  • Grapes can also be added to green salads, to enrich them nutritionally
  • They taste great when served with cheese as a snack
  • Grapes can be frozen to form a wonderful snack.
 

Health Benefits
Grapes have since time immemorial been regarded as a fruit with immense health benefits. Whether you consume them raw or as wine (their fermented form), be rest assured that you are raising a toast to your good health. Some of the health benefits associated with grapes, may be listed as follows:

  • Though all kinds of grapes are good for health, the dark skinned ones contain an antioxidant, resveratol, which is shown to reduce cardiovascular and cancer risk
  • Regular consumption of grapes reduces the brain damage caused by a stroke
  • Eating grapes leads to an increase in levels of nitric oxide, a compound produced in the body that helps in combating the formation of clots in blood vessels
  • Also scientists believe that grapes lead to a decrease in platelet aggregation, or blood clotting, by red blood cells
  • Researchers have seen that regular consumption of the fruit increases the levels of alpha-tocopherol, an antioxidant compound that is a member of the vitamin E family, and this increase results in a 50% increase in plasma antioxidant activity
  • Grape juice protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol or the bad cholesterol turns it into a an artery-damaging molecule
  • Studies have also found that phenolic compounds in grape skins possess protein tyrosine kinases, a group of enzymes that play a pivotal role in cell regulation
  • Wine, made from grapes is an excellent remedy for people suffering from Hypertension
  • The Resveratrol present in ample amounts in the grapes, is believed to lower the effects of the Alzheimer's Disease