Larrie Stone

Larrie Stone

A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, produced by a flowering plant that is a deciduous woody vine called a grapevine.

Grapes grow in clusters and have a smooth skin that is edible. They range in color from green to yellow, pink, crimson, dark blue or black. The berries may grow as small as a pea or as large as a small plum. Most, however, are around one-half to one inch in length.

Fossil evidence of grape leaves and seeds show that grapes have been used by humans since prehistoric times. Egyptian tomb paintings that date back to 2440 B.C. depict the cultivation of grapes.

There are an estimated 10,000 types of grapes that are related and growing in the wild or being cultivated in vineyards around the world. There are only about 1,300 varieties of grapes that are used in the winemaking industry.

Growers of grapes harvest millions of tons of grapes each year. Some 70 percent of these grapes are used to make wine. Much of the rest of the crop is sold as table grapes which people eat fresh.

In addition, many grapes are dried to make raisins, for making juice or jelly, and for canning. They are also used to make grape seed extract, vinegar and grape seed oil.

The top five grape-producing countries account for about half of the world's entire grape production. They are China, France, Italy, Spain and the United States. In the U.S., grapes are the sixth-largest crop grown. All 50 states produce the fruit with California, Washington and New York being the largest producers.

When you bite into a grape, you get more than a burst of juicy sweet goodness. Grapes are one of today's health conscious foods that may help you stay well. They are low in calories as well as being packed with nutrients, fiber, antioxidants and powerful plant compounds.

Resveratrol is one of these plant compounds that is found in the skin of red and purple grapes and in the red wine made from these grapes. It is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They're thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at a higher risk for health problems such as cancer and heart disease. However, more research is needed to confirm and understand any benefits this compound might provide.

Larrie Stone is a retired Dana College science professor.

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