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What you need to know about this fruit

Numerous culinary, gastronomic, and non-gastronomic cultures revolve around grapes. From a botanical perspective, grapes are the fruit of Vitis Vinifera, a climbing plant that can grow in all climates, as long as they are temperate, and more ideal if they are Mediterranean.

Although the fruit is mostly used to make wine, it can also be referred to as a “table fruit.” As we’ll see later, it can also be used to produce a variety of meals. There is a great deal of ignorance regarding grapes; for instance, no one can honestly say how beneficial they are to health. Actually, a variety of B vitamins, as well as vitamins A and C, and mineral salts including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, can be found in grapes. Antioxidants are abundant in grapes; nonetheless, resveratol, a non-flavonoid phenol with anti-inflammatory properties, is the most notable one.

The best-known grape varieties

The varieties of grapes are truly numerous; there are hundreds and hundreds of them, and a good part of them are used for the production of wines (the identity of which depends precisely on the variety of grapes used). We will only discuss the primary categories here, as it would be excessive to cover them all.

  • White. The flavour is slightly acidic, and the colour tends towards light green.
  • Red. The flavour is fuller and significantly sweeter. The colour tends towards purple and has a chromatic tone given by the abundant presence of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants.
  • Rosé. The taste is distinctly acidic with sweetish notes. The colour tends towards a light pink-purple.

Typical and unconventional uses for this fruit

There are two most common uses of grapes: raw consumption (as a table fruit) and wine production. The offer is extraordinary; each culture offers dozens, if not hundreds, of different wines. But there is a third use of grapes, a little less widespread but still capable of giving more than a little satisfaction, namely grapes as an ingredient in first and second courses. That’s right, grapes can be used like any other ingredient.

For example, it can be included in some risottos, especially particularly spicy ones. Likewise, it can be used as a side dish for products of animal origin. From this point of view, it goes perfectly well with blue fish. Obviously, grapes can and should be used as a garnish for fruit cakes. Finally, it can be the main ingredient in delicious jams or in tasty preparations such as gooseberries in alcohol.

Some delicious grape-based recipes

After introducing some common uses of grapes and specifying that they can be treated like any other ingredient, I present some of the recipes that really impressed me. I advise you to delve deeper into the procedures; you can find the complete recipes on our website.

Red partridge with grapes and polenta. It’s a very complex second course that offers a lot of satisfaction. Grapes are used to create a sauce together with meat and other aromatic ingredients and are also used as a garnish at the end of preparation.

Cod with grapes and cherry tomatoes. This is another really easy-to-prepare second course in gourmet style. Here, the cherry tomatoes and grapes are blended to allow the grapes to soften without crumbling. The cod fillets are then pan-fried until lightly browned and breaded, and then placed on top of this sauce.

Focaccia with grapes. Well, yes, grapes can also serve as a condiment for a tasty focaccia! The topping on this focaccia is rich and includes cream cheese, onions, sausage, and walnuts.

Pink grape cheesecake. This variation of the cheesecake features grapes as the main topping. The fruit is caramelised with sugar, cinnamon, and a few pieces of apple, giving it a varied texture between soft and dense.

Sugolo. It is an ancient recipe that belongs to the most authentic Lombard gastronomy. It is a kind of grape pudding in which the fruit is caramelised and passed through a sieve; finally, it is combined with flour and sugar. This produces an extremely viscous liquid that should be poured into the custard mould and refrigerated for several hours to solidify.

The nutritional benefits of grapes

There is a lot of talk about the benefits (and risks) of wine, but those of its raw material, namely grapes, are often forgotten. The fruit has some very rare active ingredients that act to benefit the body. For example, it provides procyanidins, substances that play an antimutagenic and antioxidant role; therefore, they are useful in preventing cancer and some degenerative pathologies of the vascular and nervous systems. This substance is also useful for slowing down skin ageing.

Another very rare active ingredient is resveratrol, which, based on some scientific studies, improves blood fluidity and reduces platelet aggregation. This is an important detail, as these aggregative phenomena correspond to a greater thrombotic risk.

Grapes are also moderately astringent, so they can be used profitably to combat digestive disorders, nausea, and dysentery. Furthermore, it is a fruit very rich in vitamins and mineral salts. As a result, it ensures that the body receives adequate nutrition, maximising metabolism and energy generation.

Do grapes have any contraindications?

Even though grapes are generally a healthy fruit, it is good to find out if there are any contraindications. The fruit’s true sweetness, which can provide some challenges for individuals with diabetes, justifies the scepticism. Well, grapes have a lower glycemic index than cereal foods, but they are still high. For this very reason, it is advisable for people with diabetes or those on a diet to take it extremely sparingly.

Furthermore, people with colitis and ulcers should use caution when consuming grapes due to their astringent properties. The presence of many tannins suggests a cautious approach, even for those who complain of kidney problems.

Another issue concerns the consumption of the peel by kids. Table grapes are typically consumed raw, although young children (under four years old) may have health issues with them. In fact, the peel could be indigestible for young children.

How are grapes grown?

Growing grapes is an activity rich in cultural and historical significance. Many Mediterranean peoples are known for their high-calibre grapes and wine production. With a few safety precautions, growing this fruit is not too difficult.

The first concerns the timing: the grapes must be planted between October and May in order to proceed with the harvest at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. It is necessary to dig holes half a metre deep and free the soil from stones and roots, then sprinkle it with composted manure and soil. The development of the plant is rapid; therefore, it must be supported in various ways with pergolas and espaliers.

Watering needs to be done frequently, but not excessively. However, it should be suspended two weeks before harvesting, as it could cause damage to the ripening grapes.