Origin / growing areas
Grapes have been among the most popular types of fruit served on fruit platters and the like for thousands of years. The Egyptians are known to have enjoyed the taste of grapes over 5,000 years ago, and to have cultivated them above all for wine-making. Thus the grape vine is one of the oldest cultivated plants known to mankind. Reserved at first to a small class of aristocrats, grapes were eventually introduced by the Romans to the entire Mediterranean and northern European regions.
Grapes are among the most important types of fruit available on the international fruit market today. Grape vines grow in temperate and subtropical regions, and are cultivated in all parts of the world. Thanks to imports from all over the world, they are available in Germany year-round. Yet more than half of the global grape harvest comes from European countries, most notably Italy, Greece and Spain.
A typical picture of a wine-growing area shows hillsides covered with rows of green vines. Table and wine grapes belong to the grapevine family (Vitaceae) – summer-green climbing plants cultivated in vineyards consisting of supporting fences arranged in straight lines. The small berries grow in the shape of panicles from the blossoms of the grapevine and exhibit colours ranging from light-green to dark-blue, depending on the species.
Grapes are credited with more positive properties than scarcely any other fruit. They contain a wide range of beneficial nutrients. Particularly noteworthy are the natural colorants in red grapes and the extracts derived from grape seeds, both of which contain abundant antioxidants – natural ingredients that protect our blood vessels and the cells of our bodies against damage resulting from environmental influences and other factors. Grapes are also said to stimulate intestinal and renal activity, help prevent the formation of uric acid deposits, and protect against gout, arteriosclerosis and other maladies. These small berries reduce acid levels in our bodies.
Grapes come in a huge variety of types, including some 16,000 different species. Grapes may be round or oval; their colours range from green, yellow and amber to red, blue and dark-blue. The small berries consist primarily of water. Their tough skin encases the juicy flesh, which in turn surrounds as many as five hard seeds, depending on the species. Only about ten percent of the global grape harvest is offered for sale in retail stores. The other 90 percent is processed into wine or dried–fruit products.
Grapes have different flavours, depending on the type. There are sour, sweet-aromatic and slightly tart varieties (the latter taste somewhat like nutmeg). Aside from their most often consumed forms – wine, fruit beverages and smoothies – grapes also taste very good raw. They are often presented as a refreshing decorative element or served with cheese platters. Sliced into small halves, sweet grapes provide an interesting contrast to savoury salads.