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a food delicacy since ancient times

The Egyptians first discovered that drying fruit preserved it, made it sweeter, and improved its flavor. The Bible mentions that an Israelite brought cheese and raisins to pay his taxes to King David. In Rome during the time of Nero, the wealthy always had raisins on the menu at their feasts. Growing, drying, and selling raisins was an important trade in Armenia as early as 400 B.C. Asia Minor was the center of the raisin industry about the time of Christ. The climate and soil of the Mediterranean countries made them famous for raisin growing during the Middle Ages. The raisin industry of California was started by Jesuit and Franciscan priests, who planted fruit trees and grape vines around the missions to help supply the Indian settlements with food.

Raisins are made by drying grapes in the sun for 10 to 15 days. There are four main varieties of raisins. The two most common varieties are the Thompson seedless and the muscat. Seedless raisins first came from Turkey. In 1879, a man named Thompson brought the first seedless-grape cuttings to California. The muscat is a large, seed-bearing raisin. Muscats were brought to America by the Spanish missionaries. The sultana, which is seedless, has a distinctive flavor and is used mainly in bakeries. The Corinthian, also known as a currant, is a small raisin used mainly to flavor bakery goods.

Seedless grapes are allowed to ripen on the vine. They are then harvested and placed on sheets of heavy brown paper between the rows of vines. After drying for 10 to 15 days the raisins are stacked and dried again. Then they are stored in great bins, called sweat boxes, to equalize their moisture content. They are then ready for the packing house. Although the Thompson Seedless Grape is light green in color, it becomes a "standard" black raisin when dried; "white" raisins are "made" by adding sulphur to the grapes during the drying process.

Raisins are well known as a nourishing food. They contain 24 per cent moisture, 2.3 per cent protein, .5 per cent fat, 71.2 per cent carbohydrates, and 2.0 per cent ash. A 100-calories portion of raisins contains .75 grams of protein, .019 grams of calcium, .038 grams of phosphorus, .00139 grams of iron, and .114 grams of ash. Raisins contain 10 minerals of important food value, including iron and copper, as well as vitamins A, B1, and B2. They also contain enough alkali to help balance the acids in the body.

California Raisin Marketing Board

Thompson Seedless Grapes

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The Robinson Library >> Agriculture >> Plant Culture >> Fruit and Fruit Culture

This page was last updated on 06/16/2017.