The Dark Ages would have been a lot darker without grapes
No Whining about Grapes
What a wonderful fruit! Grapes grow anywhere that has warm sunlight and water. If you have an empty six inches of soil in your garden, you could add a grape vine. Foothills Winery in the desert of Yuma, Arizona grows grapes, as does Bear Creek Wines of Alaska. Martha's Vineyard got part of its name from the wild grapes found on the island in 1602. Maybe the same type of grapes seen by Leif Ericsson when he called North America Vinland. Long before the planting of the famous grapes of the Napa Valley, Spanish explorers and missionaries found wild California grapes growing in the foothills. Grapes are everywhere!
Hunter-gatherers were probably eating grapes long before the invention of pottery, and then someone noticed that grapes liquified in pots had started to bubble. It was the invention of wine. That happened at least 8000 years ago, thousands of years before the building of the pyramids.
Grapes must have had some effect on the development of Western Civilization. Wine that comes into contact with the common bacteria called acetobacter turns into vinegar. With vinegar, salt, and water, you can pickle almost any vegetable, including grape leaves for stuffing with food later. Brine is good for storing food in lieu of a refrigerator or freezer. Consumption of a large amount of wine was probably prescribed as an analgesic before the removal of a tooth or leg (usually done by the same person). As most travelers can attest, any alcoholic beverage is better than water in a sketchy place. Raisins, which are dried grapes, make a great hiking or marching food. But early raisins would not have been seedless, thus armies or travelers would have spread the seeds, thus the vines, unintentionally.
I have two grapevines at the TownHouse Garden. One is a native California Grape grown from seed. It has not produced fruit yet, but this year has seen vigorous growth. It is not a seedless grape, but it is similar in appearance to the Concord Grape.
The other vine is a Thompson Seedless grown from a bare-root plant that I purchased at Home Depot about three years ago. I initially grew the Thompson in a fabric pot, but its roots quickly burst out of the bag. The following winter I planted it in the soil. It grew well and produced a few bunches of grapes that were eaten by the local squirrel, but this year it has produced lots of grape bunches. I bagged about half of the grape clusters in fruit protection bags, the other half I left to the critters. However, they have not been interested in the grapes, yet(!).
Now the question is what to do with all of the grapes. The Thompson Seedless is the grape of California raisins. Some may remember the satire on Dallas called "Fresno" with Carol Burnett about the raisin empire of the Central Valley of California. So my plan was to turn the excess grapes into raisins.
I tried one method that called for blanching the grapes in hot water until the grape split. The purpose was to break the skin, but I noticed that the water was turning a caramel color, a sign I was losing sugar. I then placed the grapes on a tray outside under a cheese cloth.
|Note the split skin of the grapes.|
But after two days the grapes just looked like rotten grapes.
I decided at that point to invest in a dehydrator on Amazon and found a reconditioned Cosori for $49. As it turned out, two of the trays were missing and they credited me with $25 to buy the trays separately.
I finished off the sun baked grapes in the dehydrator.
For my first batch completed totally in the dehydrator, I pinched off the stem and ripped the skin of the grape. If a rip did not occur, I added a slice from a serrated knife.
|Grapes ready to on the dehydrator tray|
What to do with this bounty of raisins? Perhaps with Greek yogurt and granola at breakfast, of maybe one of my favorite cookies using the recipe sent to me by my nephew Josh. It originally appeared in the LA Times:
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Cook Time: 30 minutes | Servings: 2 dozen large cookies
1.5 C butter (softened, and a little melted)
4/3 C sugar
4/3 cups dark brown sugar
1.5 t. vanilla extract
3 C old-fashioned rolled oats
2 C plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 C wheat germ
1.5 t. b. soda
1.5 t. b. powder
1.5 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt
1.5 C golden raisins (or regular raisins)
1 bag of chocolate chips
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients until just combined. Gently fold in the raisins.
5. Scoop one-fourth cup dough for each cookie and slightly flatten them, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (they will spread). (Josh's note: or just scoop regular size cookies!) Slightly flatten the top of each cookie and bake one tray at a time, on the center rack, for consistent baking and coloring. The cookies will be done when set and lightly colored and the edges are slightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes.
Nutritional Info: Each cookie: 317 calories; 5 grams protein; 47 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 56 mg. cholesterol; 199 mg. sodium.
Yum and cheers for all that grapes give us!