Hello my dear readers,
Another week, another Monday
Although today we find excellent grapes during the entire year, the best season to eat quality grapes is autumn and September in particular. In the wide range of types existing on the market, everyone can find the one that is most similar to their tastes: the crunchy, the sweet, with seeds or without, with the thin or thick peel … all united by the many healthy virtues: in fact, grapes are rich in polyphenols, which counteract cellular aging.
The grapes can range between different shades of color, from the lightest of white grapes to the darkest of black grapes, and are many varieties; the main distinction is between wine grapes or table grapes, of which Italy is the world’s largest producer. The season of Italian table grapes is between July and October, with maximum production in August and September. In Italy the regions that cultivate significant quantities are Sicily, Puglia and Lazio.
The origins of the vine and the grape are so ancient, to become a legend: some trace the origin of the vine back to Adam and Eve. It is thought to have developed around 7500 BC in the trans-Caucasian region, which today corresponds to Armenia and Georgia. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 2500 BC already describe various types of grape processing. From Egypt the practice of grape production and processing spread among the Jews, Arabs and Greeks, and are the Greeks that even dedicated a divinity to the wine, Dionysus, the God of conviviality. It was the Greeks who favored viticulture in Europe and brought it to Italy, in the south; the Etruscans learned this art and passed it on to the Romans.
The birth of Christianity and the consequent decline of the Roman Empire, marked the beginning of a dark period for grapes and wine, also because was considered to lead to intoxication and ephemeral pleasure; in addition with the spread of Islam in the Mediterranean, between AD 800 and 1400, the viticulture in all the occupied territories was banned. On the other hand, it was the monks of that period who continued, almost clandestinely, the viticulture and the practice of grape processing to produce the wines to be used in religious rites. In any case, we will have to wait for the Renaissance to find a literature that gives wine back its role as the protagonist of Western culture, a role it still preserves today.
Grape vines not only produce sweet and versatile fruits, they also add an element of drama to your garden or landscape. They are vigorous growers, and with the proper pruning, they will produce fruit with ease for even 100 years.
If you plan to start to cultivate vines and produce table or wine grapes, it is necessary to have a very sunny terrain. This is the primary condition, since the vines do not like the shaded or damp places.
To choose the best type of grape for your climate you can check with the nursery from your area, or search for a suggestion online, once you have identified the characteristics of the terrain and the climate in which the plants will be positioned and you’ll need to assure a good drainage and absence of water stagnation.
In addition to the good ventilation and sunshine of the terrain, you must consider that the vine needs space, so each stem will be placed at least 2 – 3 meters from each other. Before planting, construct a trellis or arbor, as grape vines will need to be trained to some sort of support to grow upward. The soil needs to be deep, well-drained, and loose. The best time to plant grapes is from October to May. It is necessary to dig a hole of about 50 cm, to position well the roots. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery. Cover the roots with soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don’t tamp this down. Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time and water abundantly.
In the first couple of years, the vine should not be allowed to produce fruit as it needs to strengthen its root system before it can support the weight of fruit. Remember that to have great grapes, pruning is very important. Prune annually when vines are dormant, in March or April, before the buds start to swell and remember, the more you prune, the more grapes you will have.
In the kitchen the grape is versatile and can be used to make sweets or tasty second courses of fish and meat.
At the time of purchase we must first check the stalks: if they are green it means that the grapes are fresh; if they are brownish and rather withered or even almost dry it means that the grapes have been harvested for a long time when they were still very green and will hardly be sweet and tasty. Table grapes, if not too ripe, should be stored at room temperature in a fruit bowl. If not, put it in a paper bag and keep it in the fridge. In principle you can keep it for a week.
Grapes are consumed as a fresh fruit, in fruit salad or reduced to juice; the vincotto, overcooked must that is very sweet, is prepared with the very ripe fresh grape, and is used to prepare some traditional sweets. Grapes are also used for jams, cakes, biscuits and muffins. From the seeds (grapeseed) of the grapes an oil rich in fatty acids is obtained which is beneficial to health if used raw. Dried grapes or raisins are used in many recipes, both sweet and savory all over the world. Even the vine leaves are edible: in Greek, Romanian and Lebanese cuisine it is used to steam them and then wrap rice and meat in them.
And to not forget the wine 😉🍷
Grapes contain water (80%), carbohydrates, fiber, mineral salts, vitamins and very little fat. It is thirst-quenching, purifying and at the same time nourishing and energetic: it is a real mine of therapeutic virtues. The grapes have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, mainly due to the content of polyphenols and resveratrol, present in the skin of black grapes; it also has antiviral properties, thanks to the content of tannic acid and phenol, able to counter the herpes simplex virus. Those who suffer from digestive disorders should eat grapes without peel and seeds.
The grape has numerous therapeutic properties: first of all it carries out a laxative and diuretic action. It is useful for fighting dyspepsia, hemorrhoids, urinary stones and biliary tract. In addition, it activates liver functions, facilitates digestion, contributes to reducing the level of cholesterol in the blood and eliminating uric acid. The grape also has disinfectant properties, it is beneficial to the nervous system, and it is useful in the demineralization processes of the organism, such as pregnancy and lactation.
Thank you all for reading.
Join me next time and let’s discover Toscana or Tuscany, one of the Italian regions that produces high quality wines.
And until then, always remember to eat and drink in style
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
- Discovering our food: Eggplants
- Discovering our food: Parsley
- Discovering our food: Zucchini
- Discovering our food: Watermelon
- Discovering our food: Tomatoes
- Discovering our food: Basil