native to: many regions, including Asia, Africa, and North America
in season here: late August-September
Grapes can be loosely categorized as table, wine, or raisin grapes. They’re technically berries, and come in a wide range of colors and sizes. They were cultivated in Asia as early as 5000 B.C.E and come to us with a certain mystique, being the source of the classical world’s sacred intoxicant, wine. In the 2nd century C.E., when they were being planted in the Rhine Valley, over 90 varieties were known. Different native varieties can be found all over the world. Concord and muscadine grapes are native to North America, while the Amur grape is native to Asia.
Grapes are a source of several phytonutrients, including resveratrol, that are thought to increase longevity. They have a low glycemic index and are good for balancing blood sugar (two points that, it turns out, are not as closely linked as we’ve been led to believe). They also provide melatonin and unique oligopeptides with antibacterial properties. The skins and seeds (if any) are particularly high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Grapes also greatly benefit the cardiovascular system, including blood pressure regulation and improving cholesterol levels. Regular consumption of grapes or grape juice can even improve your ability to learn, making them a great study snack. They also provide vitamins B2, C, and K, as well as copper and other micronutrient minerals. Raisins, of course, are higher in sugar and calories, although they offer pretty much the same nutrients otherwise.
Grapes are another of those foods that retain pesticide residues well, making organic grapes a good choice. Genetically engineered grapes do exist, but are still very rare. Generally speaking, red grapes are the sweetest, white grapes (actually light green) are next, and purple or blue-black grapes are the least sweet and most “grape-y” in flavor. Grapes can be frozen, although that does reduce their flavor somewhat; frozen grapes can make a great summertime snack.
label-style nutrition information for raw grapes
label-style nutrition information for grape juice
label-style nutrition information for raisins
World’s Healthiest Foods
raisins at Nutrition and You