A grand, great year for grapes

Photo by Cynthia Hochswender

My general feeling about green seedless grapes is that they’re fine but not really worth the effort it takes to wash them. And then they get wrinkly too quickly.

This year is the exception. The green seedless grapes have been huge and sweet and crunchy. They’re easier to wash because they’re so big. And they don’t get wrinkly because they’re not lasting more than about 30 hours after I buy them.

I don’t know if this has been an exceptional year for grapes, or if stores are just carrying a new variety. My trusty friend (the Internet) didn’t have any useful information to share with me on this year’s grape crop.

But I did learn something interesting while surfing around: I learned that, even though diabetics are supposed to limit their intake of sugar, they are encouraged to eat lots of fresh fruit (including sweet, crunchy grapes).

There was an article at www.everydayhealth.com that explained this concept more clearly than anything I’ve read before on this subject. It explained that diabetics need carbs, and fruit has lots of carbs. Fruit also adds variety and flavor to the diabetic’s diet, which is a good thing (food should be fun).

Fruits have lots of antioxidants, which go around your body mopping up dangerous free radicals (which often cause cancer).

And they have lots of fiber in addition to their sweetness and their carbs and their antioxidants. I’ve never quite understood this before, but it made more sense after reading on the Everyday Health website that, “Unlike fruit juice, a whole fruit still has all of its fiber. That’s important for a diabetes diet because fiber isn’t digestible — it fills you up without raising your blood sugar. Including more fiber in your diet means better blood sugar control.”

For most of this article, we’ve been talking about green grapes because, even though I only like them sometimes, that’s more than I like purple or red grapes (which is pretty much never). I think I probably started eating purple grapes a century ago, when they still almost always had bitter nasty seeds inside them; I’ve never forgiven them and to this day I still only eat them if someone pressures me into it (and then I always enjoy them, just for the record).

As a rule, fruits and vegetables that have more vibrant color tend to have more cancer-fighting power. In the case of grapes, the red and purple ones have more flavonoids than their paler cousins. 

Observant readers will remember that a few years ago red wine was being touted as a new wonder food. That’s because all grapes have lots of resveratrol, which lowers your bad cholesterol and increases your good cholesterol. 

Red wine was cited as having more resveratrol — but not because red grapes have more of it. It’s because the skins stay on the grapes for a longer amount of time when red wine is being made. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you really want to get some resveratrol in your body, you should just drink grape juice — or better still, just eat grapes (red and green). 

When I eat grapes, I tend to use them as a fast and easy snack. But I’ve also cooked with them (well, I’ve added them to recipes, but I don’t usually apply heat). Pretty much any recipe with the word “veronique” added to it is going to have green grapes in it (such as the famous sole veronique). 

Chicken salad is a very nice thing to make in the veronique style. Ina Garten suggests that you take cold poached chicken and mix it with mayonnaise, tarragon, finely chopped celery and green grapes that have been cut in half. I find that any salad with mayonnaise and poached chicken needs a lot of salt. 

You can serve it on its own, or on a leaf of butter lettuce or on a brioche bun.