Grapes: Nature’s Candy
Grapes are the perfect finger food. These juicy morsels are nature’s candy that come in many colors, from light green to red or purple; blue, pink, and even black. Just wash off a bunch with water and they become a simple snack to satisfy your sweet tooth without any guilt. In the science of botany, grapes are classified as berries because of their fleshy surface and lack of a pit or fruit stone. Grapes are usually eaten fresh but they are also used to make jellies, jams, juice, raisins, vinegar, grape seed oil, and grape seed extract.
Grapes were first grown and cultivated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Today, they are a common supermarket item all over the world and buyers everywhere are familiar with several varieties. Crimson Seedless grapes, the ones commonly sold in stores, have a sweet and tart taste combination with a long shelf life. Moon Drop grapes are long, purple-black and finger-shaped and have a firm texture and sweet jelly flavor. Concord grapes are round, deep blue with an aromatic scent and big seeds. They are also the grapes used for the popular Welch’s Grape Juice. There’s even a variety, called Cotton Candy grapes, which tastes as sweet as that fluffy sugary treat.
“Grapes are considered a hydrating fruit with its increased water content. Grapes are a perfect addition for Ramadan meals and snacks,” says YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad, RDN, LD. So, if you are starting or finishing a day of fasting, consider adding grapes to your meals for the nutrients and added hydration.
Muhammad says, “Grapes contain no cholesterol or fat. They are packed with many vitamins and minerals. In red or green grapes, you find vitamin B6, C, E, K, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin. Potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium are also present.” According to Megan Ware, RDN, LD, of MedicalNewsToday.com, “Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions. Many studies have shown that increasing consumption of plant foods like grapes decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.” Raisins, or dried grapes, like other dried fruits are conducive to alleviating constipation. According to WebMD.com, “Grapes are used for preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, ‘hardening of the arteries’ (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure, swelling after injury or surgery, heart attack, and stroke.”
With all the wonderful health benefits of eating grapes, it’s no wonder that they are one of the rewards of Paradise. “And He it is Who sends down water from the cloud, then We bring forth with it buds of all (plants), then We bring forth from it green (foliage) from which We produce grain piled up (in the ear); and of the palm-tree, of the sheaths of it, come forth clusters (of dates) within reach, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, alike and unlike; behold the fruit of it when it yields the fruit and the ripening of it; most surely there are signs in this for a people who believe.” (6:99) Grapes are often mentioned throughout the Quran and hadith literature. “And from the fruits of date-palms and grapes, you derive a strong drink and goodly provision.” (16:67) God also mentions the beautiful gardens and vineyards for righteous people of Paradise. “Verily, for the righteous, there will be a success, gardens and vineyards.” (78:31-32)
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) enjoyed eating grapes in many ways. It was narrated by Abu Musa Al-’Ash’ari that, “He used to drink thickened grape juice that of which two-third had gone and one-third was left.” (Sunan an-Nasa’I, Book 51, Hadith 183). Grapes are even considered a part of war rations from a defeated enemy. Narrated by Ibn `Umar, (may God be pleased with him), “In our battles, we used to get honey and grapes, as war booty which we would eat and would not store.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 57, Hadith 62)
There is no end to how they can be used. You can place grapes or raisins in your salad to give them a sweet kick. Epicurious.com has great recipes. There’s one salad recipe using arugula, grapes, and almonds with a saba vinaigrette. The saba vinaigrette is made from grape must; the juice containing the seeds, stems, and skins of freshly pressed grapes. You can also try grilled Brussel sprouts and grapes with walnuts added for a crunchy texture. Roasted chicken with grapes and rosemary are a sweet and hearty meal packed with vitamins and protein. Concord grape pie makes for a perfect comfort food during the cooler months and grape-stuffed sweet potatoes, with yummy goat cheese and various seasonings, are a decadent treat. Try these recipes and let this healthy, sweet fruit add some zing into your meals!
Kelly Izdihar Crosby is an artist and freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.