Grape

Frozen grapes are the perfect chilled snack on a hot summer day. Everyone remembers grapes from their childhood, almost as if they were a rite of passage. You have your favorite, either red or green and those little balls of sweet flavor can bring back memories of days long gone with one simple bite. Let's take a look at some of the fantastic reasons why you should continue consuming grapes today.

While most grapes come from the same family and genus of plant, there are about sixty different species of this plant type with literally thousands of variables. Table grape varieties, the ones you most often eat, are larger in size, have been propagated to be seedless, and have relatively thin skins. Wine grapes, on the other hand, are usually smaller in size, contain seeds, and have relatively thick skins.

While we often think about the Mediterranean when we envision grape vines, this amazing food is actually native to many parts of the world, including regions in Asia, Africa, and North America. From a commercial standpoint, grapes from around the world have now been hybridized to produce unique blends of flavor, texture, and environmental suitability. Worldwide there are 150 trillion pounds of grapes produced each year. Grape production comes from five major countries - Italy, China, Spain, France and the U.S.

Grapes have multiple personalities

Grapes have a long and abundant history. While they've grown wild since prehistoric times, evidence suggests they were domesticated in Asia around 5000 BC. Grapes were also pictured in ancient Egyptian burial tomb hieroglyphics. During the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, grapes were revered for their use in the production of wine. They were planted in the Rhine Valley in Germany, a place of notable wine production, in the 2nd century AD. Today there are thousands of varietals of grapes that we know about, both cultivated and wild. In the United States, California reigns as the grape producing state. However, during the winter months, the US imports their grapes from South America and Chile.

It has been long believed that grapes have healing properties. Before scientific research backed up the disease-fighting properties of grapes, ancient China healers mixed grape wine with snakes and frogs to cure illnesses and diseases. Truth is, they probably could have left out the critters and gotten the same cures. Grapes are about 80% water, which explains why it is so satisfying as a low-calorie snack or dessert.

Although most grapes are cultivars of vitis vinifera, the European grape, there are some American and Asian species that make it to the table, either whole, dried, or as grape juice. The American concord grape belongs to the vitis labrusca species, the muscadine, used for jams and to make wine, is the American vitis rotundifolia. The American wild vitis riparia is also used to make wine and jams. In Asia, it is vitis amurensis the most important species.

Preparation and cooking

In 2011 a study was done that found conventionally grown grapes to be one of the most problematic fruits and vegetables in terms of pesticide residues. When you consider that it's estimated that in the United States we each eat 8 pounds of grapes a year, that's a lot of pesticides to be concerned about.

For the best tasting grapes with high concentrations of antioxidants select those that are fully ripe, which means they should be plump and free of wrinkles. Since grapes tend to spoil and ferment at room temperature, they should always be stored in the refrigerator. While freezing detracts from some of their flavor, frozen grapes are a wonderful snack and particularly intriguing to children. To freeze grapes, wash and pat them dry, then arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer.

Grapes are more than an easy go-to snack. We now know that grapes belong at every course of a meal. Use grapes in salads, salsas, and sandwiches. Cook them, freeze them, or eat them right off the vine. Oh, and don't forget the raisins, and the wine! The versatile grape deserves your attention.

Bunch of white grapes against the light.

White grapes

A bunch of red grapes.