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Grapes are small oval or round berries enclosed with a smooth skin and translucent flesh. They are covered by a protective whitish "bloom". They come in three main varieties, namely, Table grapes, Wine grapes and Raisin/ dry grapes. Since there are many varieties of grapes available, it is obvious that they come in variety of colours like green, red, bluish black and purple. In general, grapes have a slightly crunchy texture and a dry, sweet and tart taste. When grapes are dried, they are processed into raisins, currants or sultanas.
Main species of grapes include European grapes (seeded or unseeded grapes with skins closely attached to the flesh and usually green or purple in colour- eg. Thompson, Champagne and Emperor), North American grapes (grapes with skins loosely attached to the flesh and usually black pink red or amber in colour- eg. Niagara, Concord and Delaware) and French grapes (developed from vinifera grapes).
In order to chop grapes, place them on a chopping board and cut each grape into halves. Now make vertical slits on each halve, arrange the strips together and make horizontal slits to get chopped grapes. The slits can be made finely or thickly to get finely chopped/ roughly chopped grapes as per requirements. Chopped grapes are usually used as toppings on fruit tarts or as an edible garnish on desserts. Use a mix of various colours of grapes and chop to add to the eye appeal as an garnish.
How to select
In order to slice grapes, place them on a chopping board and cut each grape into halves. Now make vertical slits on each halve to get sliced grapes. Make the slits as per requirements to get finely sliced or roughly sliced grapes. Sliced grapes are used mainly as toppings on desserts.
Select grapes which are intact and firmly attached to a healthy looking stem. It should be free from wrinkles and blemishes, cuts and leaking juices. Select from various varieties available as per recipe requirements. Culinary Uses
· Because of their tart flavour combined with a sweet dry crunchy after taste, grapes are popular as a snack al by itself and even as a ingredient in recipes.
· Use them whole or halved in fruit and vegetable salads. Combine with dressings of your choice to enhance the flavour. An acidulated cream dressing goes very well with a grape salad.
· Grapes are widely used in the production of wine. Very specific varieties of grapes give way to the unique range in white wines, red wines, rose wines etc.
· Grapes are processed into jams and marmalades, grape seed oil, jellies, candy, juices, syrups, fruit vinegars etc.
· Grapes are a classic accompaniment to cheese board platters where it is served along with an assortment of cheeses (specially dessert cheese), crackers etc.
· One can stew grapes and serve as an accompaniment to main courses like meats etc.How to store
Always wash under cold running water and then use in a recipe or consume. Before storing, pat dry or drain off excess water in a colander. If you are not consuming the whole bunch at one time, store them under refrigerated conditions since grapes tend to spoil at room temperature. Use scissors to separate small clusters of grapes from the stem instead of removing individual grapes. This will help keep the remaining grapes fresher by preventing the stem from drying out. Place in plastic bags and then store in the fridge. Health Benefits
· The high vitamin and mineral content makes grapes a great supplement to a healthy diet. Grapes are good sources of Vitamin B6, Thiamin (Vitamin B1) and Vitamin C. It is an excellent source of potassium, manganese, folate, calcium, etc which are required for an active lifestyle.
· It is a quick source of energy and enhances blood building. Thus, it also helps reduce harmful blood clots and platelet clumping.
· In the form of juices, grapes are easily digested and thus can be used to combat constipation etc.
· It aids the process of decreasing the acidity of uric acid, thus benefiting the kidneys greatly.
· They contain flavonoids which are antioxidant compounds.
· Grapes also reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, promote lower blood pressure, and thus benefit the heart. Grapes and grape juice are endorsed by many who advocate for cardiovascular health.
· They contain anti microbial properties which help reduce risk of bacterial and viral infections.