The grape lifeThis popular fruit may be good for what ails you.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
When I arrived at work the other day, there was paper bag on my desk that contained a small container of grapes.
At first, I thought somebody had left me some blueberries. It wasn’t until after a little inquiring around the office that I discovered the purple berries were grapes from my good friend and gardening partner, Darrel Koehler.
Darrel had another bumper crop of grapes this summer. Last year, I picked a couple of large containers of the Valiants and put up some grape jelly as well as several pints of juice. Darrel offered me more this year, but with a good supply canned goods in my pantry, I asked for only a few to eat. I also turned down chances to pick chokecherries and plums from other friends, since we will be hard pressed to finish the jellies we have by next summer.
I’ve been very impressed with the Valiants, which were bred in about 40 years ago at South Dakota State University for cold hardiness, being able to take minus 50 degrees or more. (They are a cross between a Fredonia and the wild Vitas riparia.) Many claim Valiants make the best jelly and juice, comparing their taste to those made with Concord grapes (although Florene and Billy Rowley, Grand Forks, will put her Wonderberry jelly up against any others).
On their own, grapes are a favorite of many people. Their combination of dry, sweet, tart flavor and crunchy texture has made them a popular between-meal snack as well as a great addition to both fruit and vegetable salads.
But for me, it’s all about jelly. Jelly made from grapes is my second favorite, next to that made with chokecherries. It’s hard to beat a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s been one of my favorites ever since I was a kid.
So, you can imagine my delight when I came across a recipe for Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly Bars. They were something that I had to try. And they sure were worth it!
Before you rush into any judgment about the bars (they do contain a bit of butter), let me say that like other berries, grapes are highly nutritious as well as possessing many healing properties. They are high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C and also contain many health-promoting flavonoids, some of which scavenge free radicals and promote growth and repair of tissues.
They also have an abundance of minerals including calcium, chlorine, copper, fluorine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and sulfur.
And grape skins are loaded with beta-carotene, lycopene and other phytonutrients such as ellagic acid, sulfur compounds and resveratrol, a flavonoid that is found in high amounts in red wine and grapes.
Resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces “bad” cholesterol and prevents blood clots, according to ongoing research.
And that brings me to the “French paradox.”
The French are known for having diets high in saturated fats such as butter and lard and lifestyle habits such as smoking, which are risk factors for heart disease. Yet, they have a lower risk of heart attack than Americans do. Some attribute this to their frequent consumption of grapes and red wines, hence the paradox.
The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. So, if you’re not a drinker, simply eating grapes or drinking grape juice are two ways to get resveratrol without consuming alcohol.
Me? I’ll stick with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.