As a child on my grandparent’s small farm, I delighted in this season. The chill air and fading light meant ripening grapes. I would wait in anticipation for the sweet, sour fruit that would we would make into jellies, jams, juice or eat fresh from plant. I spent many hours sitting under the arches of Concords writing or reading in the fragrant splendor. Even today, I will wander off my walking path, simply because I smell ripening grapes. Ahhh…lovely. But enough sentimentality, let’s talk about the many nutritional blessings that grapes offer.
A little history
Long cherished by the Greeks and Romans for wine making, the earliest cultivation records date back to nearly 5000 BCE. The vines eventually wound their way into France and Germany and the rest of Europe. Grapes have only been in North America for about 300 years after being brought over by Spanish explorers–thank you!
Western nutritional highlights
Grape skins and seeds contain high levels of OPC (oligomeric proanthocyanidins–say that 5 times fast) which have astounding healing properties. The richer the color of grape, the more anti-cancer and Heart protective qualities it has which is amplified by consuming the seeds as well. Grapes are high in vitamin C, flavonoids, B6, manganese, thiamine and riboflavin. Grapes also contain a compound called resveratrol which breaks up artery plaque and keeps blood platelets from coagulating.
Grape’s Eastern nutritional energetics and healing properties
It’s all about the Blood….
Sweet, sour and neutral temperature–Sweet is the flavor of Earth and affects the Stomach and Spleen. The sour flavor aids in astringing and cleansing, especially the Blood in the case of grapes. The neutral temperature means it neither heats nor cools the body.
Nourishes and cleanses the Blood and benefits the Liver—One of Liver’s roles is to cleanse and purify the Blood and lymph–enter grapes. Grapes rich color and high level of cell salts make grapes a wonderful Blood builder and cleansers. They are beneficial in the treatment of jaundice, hepatitis, anemia and other Liver patterns.
Creates happy Hearts and veins–Here again, grapes affect on Blood shines. The French Paradox looks at why the French, who have a rich, high fat diet, have so little heart disease. The conclusion is the high levels of wine, grape juice and grape products that they enjoy in their diet. Clear, clean flowing blood means reduced plaque build up, strong veins and calm Shen (spirit).
Grape seeds–Don’t seed your grapes! Rather nosh on a few seeds to get their anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and vein strengthening properties. Have rheumatism, gout, varicose veins high cholesterol–add in grapes with their seeds.
Benefits the Kidneys–The origin of Yin in the body, Kidney’s Yin nourish’s Liver Yin and Blood along with the Heart. Strong Kidney’s mean strong bones, teeth, reduced hot flashes and premature aging.
Contraindications for grapes?
Some varieties of grapes, like Concords, contain high levels of oxilates. Use with caution if you have stones–kidney or gallbladder. Those with very weak Spleen Qi should use grapes sparingly.
Caution! Get only organic grapes.
Grapes precious thin skin absorbs pesticides better than any other fruit and we know pesticides lead to serious illness.
Seven ways to use grapes
Slice grapes into salads- Clara loves them in the classic chicken salad. Toss them over your mix of greens or just serve them as a side with dinner. The image to the side? That’s just strawberries, grapes and in a sweet sparkling wine.
Drink grapes–even warm–Indulge in a little grape juice or wine every now and then. Avoid heavily sugared juices and switch to unsweetened, add your own honey or maple syrup if necessary. Enjoy grape juice added to your favorite tea. Europeans have long mulled wine or heated up grape juice, mulling it like cider.
Stew them–Yeah, really. Consider grapes like berries. Use them fresh or dried and stew them down to make fillings for crisps or as compotes to serve over hot grain cereals.
Add to savory dishes–Goes well with lemon, sage and thyme on white fish.
Eat whole as a snack —Have a bowl of fresh, in season grapes out on the table to nibble on.
Eat them dried–Raisins are a great snack–again, get organic.
Make jelly or preserves-Serve with your favorite bread or use as a glaze for savory dishes.