As the weather in the UK has seen a fair amount of heat, the grapes in my garden have turned out surprisingly sweet and in abundance and it inspired me to write about the benefits of our glorious natural fruit, what it has to offer and how the Greeks use them in so many ways.
Grapes are well known for their production of antioxidant anthocyanin which can protect the body against inflammation. The mutation in green grapes prevents the production of anthocyanin, which decreases levels of antioxidants in green grapes, which is why the red and purple variety are often considered healthier, just as red wine being the superior one, recommended for its whole health goodness as well as pleasure.
Grapes are often put into a superfood category; the benefits start within their skin that contain phytonutrients – plant chemicals that contain disease-preventing compounds. Grapes are a great source of potassium which assists in lowering blood pressure.
Grapes were always given to those that were poor in health to help with healing, as they believed it cleansed and purified the body, especially the blood. It was believed that the natural sugars and vitamins could help boost the immune system and healing process.
Grapes also contain melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Grapes contain resveratrol and polyphenols, which promote antioxidant activity in good cell communication and creating an efficient working order against inflammation and injury for the brain and heart. Grapes also have a high concentration of tryptophan to promote relaxation and sleep. So instead of reaching for those biscuits at night, try eating some fresh grapes or raisins before bedtime to make you fall asleep quicker and wake up less throughout the night, improving quality of sleep.
Even the grape vine leaves can be so good for use, as they themselves have a significant amount of minerals like iron, magnesium and manganese. They are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, E and K.
A recommended dose is approximately an 80g-90g portion of raisins (half a cup). For those that are physically active, a serving of 32 grapes is recommended, for those not so active around 10-12 grapes a day, as they are high in sugar content and can soon pile on those calories and carbs.
A standard 5oz (148ml) glass of red wine is suggested to be good for you in the evening and associated with its beneficial disease prevention.
The Greeks use grapes to the maximum; for eating fresh, grape molasses (Moustos grape must), sun dried raisins, making wine, palouze, soutzoukos, Glyko grape preserve, and of course their famous stuffed vine leaves and a grape leaf pilaf.
Recently on my trip to Cyprus, I had the privilege to participate in the traditional foot treading part of their wine making technique. The feet were used because every time it is jostled and jarred by fast heavy machinery type movement, it would risk losing its delicate traits. Foot treading is the most gentle and natural; it goes right back to its original winemaking days, when there wasn’t such advanced technology and machinery, so although there is no need to use human feet now to make wine, we still celebrate it by doing just that, at the opening of grape and wine festivals. Two people I met at one of the wine festivals I attended in Cyprus, do this traditional grape stomping and dancing, travelling round the island – they are John Mirizis and Panagiota Sozou, a lovely couple that have been dancing professionally for 30 years – they were dancing at different schools previously. They met at the European Festival and been together ever since. They have their own school of traditional Greek dance where they pass on all the skill, doing this throughout the year along with performing at various festivals, though more busy in the summer with all the wine festivals and representation of how ancestors made wine and zivania.
Grape stomping is perfectly safe as almost no human pathogens or bacteria can survive the high alcohol wine environment. Enjoy your wine responsibly!
Love and Sparkles
Facebook: Samsara Kyriakou
Photo credit: Artemis Shamari