We do not know the exact birthplace of the vine, but it is assumed to be Asia Minor. What is certain is that it existed a long time ago and that the grape is one of the oldest fruit in the world, as evidenced by seeds found in sites from the Neolithic era. The wild vine was definitely domesticated, and therefore cultivated, around 6,000 years ago. Different varieties were developed to produce wine.
The Greeks and Romans consumed both fresh and dried table grapes. During the Renaissance, some varieties were selectively bred for this purpose.
However, this fruit remained rare until the 20th century, when it became necessary to find new markets for wine. Most varieties grown today date from the late 19th century.
There are three standardized quality categories of table grapes: extra (the best), I, and II.
Select a bunch of grapes that is clean and fresh and still with its "bloom", the slightly waxy substance naturally present on the fruit (not to be confused with moisture produced during storage in a cold room). The stalk should be firm and crisp, but not dry or too dark. The fruit should be very firm, but not too tightly packed on the stalk (otherwise they rot quickly), of an equal size, and uniform color.
Green hues on white grapes are traces of sulfur left over from the final treatment.
The fruit should be a regular shape and size, with a suitable moisture content, without traces of sugar on the surface. The best raisins are the ones that have been dried naturally.
Table grapes are sold in bunches. They are also sold separated into individual fruit or as frozen puree. They are also used to make grape juice.
Raisins can be bought loose.
Oil is extracted from grape seeds to create an oil with the same name.
Before use, fresh grapes must always be carefully washed to remove any residue from their treatment.
In cooking, they can be braised to accompany meat, poultry, or game, or used in a variety of sweet/savory dishes. Quail with grapes is a classic dish. Raw, they work well in a vegetable salad. A bunch of grapes can be the perfect accompaniment to cheese or smoked ham.
As for desserts, grapes are a welcome addition to a fruit salad or fruit kebab, can be used to make a clafoutis or tart, or turned into jelly or jam.
A raisiné is a compote made using fruit (and sometimes also vegetables) cooked in black grape juice.
Raisins are usually rehydrated in water, but sometimes in tea or rum, according to their intended use. Alternatively, they can be used dry, in which case they will absorb the cooking liquid.
They feature in many sweet dishes: cakes, pastries, buns, semolina pudding, rice pudding, bread pudding, etc., but also in savory dishes, such as couscous and tagines.
Fresh grapes should be stored at cool room temperature. They can be kept in the refrigerator as long as they have not been washed, as the moisture will make them rot fairly quickly.
Raisins should be stored in a tightly sealed container.
Grape seed oil should always be stored in the dark, in a tightly sealed container or bottle, as it oxidizes easily.
Grapes contain more carbohydrates than almost any other fruit, although they are mostly made up of water. They are also among the richest in minerals, especially potassium, anthocyanin pigments, polyphenols and carotenoids (particularly black grapes). Grapes protect against cardiovascular disease.
Raisins, as most of their water content has been removed, are very rich in carbohydrates, minerals, B vitamins, and fiber. They contain all of the goodness of fresh grapes in a concentrated form.
Grape seed oil is particularly rich in unsaturated fatty acids.
There are two broad categories of table grape: red and white, and within these groups, there are a number of varieties.
. Chasselas: very sweet, quite small, spherical grapes with thin golden skin.
In France, the Chasselas de Moissac variety has PDO status. Mid-August through mid-November.
The Chasselas doré de Thomery grape undergoes a specific process in cold storage so as to be on the market from Christmas through April.
In Germany this type of grape is called Gutedel, and in Switzerland, Fendant. It is grown in several European countries.
. Danlas: large, round, yellow grapes, not very fragrant. Early and quite rare: mid-August through September.
. Italia: large oval grapes with thick skin ranging from yellow-green to golden yellow and with a slightly musky flavor. Grown in Italy. Highly resistant, they keep for quite a long time. September through December.
. Madeleine royale: round and medium-size grapes with thin skin. Rarely cultivated. They are found in Great Britain, Belgium, Austria, France, and Argentina.
. Aledo: large golden elongated grapes. Grown in Spain from November through January.
. Thomson Seedless or Sultana: round seedless grape. Widely cultivated throughout the world, this variety is mostly used to produce sultana raisins, although Chile exports it as a table grape in winter.
. Muscat: round, small, pink, sweet grapes. Grown in Chile and exported in winter.
. Cardinal: large, spherical, purplish-red grapes with quite thick skin and very juicy, sweet flesh. The earliest: late July through August.
. Alphonse Lavallée: big, round, black grapes, somewhat crisp, with quite thick skin. Late August through October. Cultivated in almost all grape-producing countries. In winter, they are imported from South Africa, often under the name ribier.
. Lival: large, very dark, and quite firm grapes with thick skin. August.
. Black Hamburg: quite small, elongated, black grapes with thin skin and a slightly musky flavor. Late August through early November.
. Ribol: large oval grapes with thick skin and quite crisp flesh. Mid-October through November.
. Muscat du Ventoux: medium-size very dark grapes with very sweet flesh. They are quite rare and have PDO status. September through mid-November.