At the Farmers Market I learned about grapes that are specifically grown to become raisins. And that are lovely to eat when still a grape as well! Meet the raisin grapes.
“Do you want to try some?” the man asked, while he tried to look sad – but with the twinkle in his eyes betrayed him. I accepted and took the little branch with the tiniest green grapes I’d ever had seen out of his hand that was in a bondage. “I’m playing the sad card today”. We both looked at his hand and smiled. He obviously wasn’t that miserable.
The soft skin immediately released the firm and sweet taste of the bright, light green flesh. The raisin that had orange blushes was sweeter. “And try now these”. His colleague took over and pointed at a deep purple grape. It was as small as all the green others that surrounded it. I picked it and put it in my mouth. It was almost too sweet, but also had a peculiar acidity in it, like it was starting a fermentation process.
The new man explained: “These are raisin grapes. After we picked them, we let them dry in the sun to end up with raisins. Until about 14 years ago all the big raisin companies bought them, but then the government decided to shop for them abroad, in Argentina. Most of our neighbors didn’t survive and got rid of all their grape plants.”
“How did you come to survive?” I asked, while the farmer of gave another costumer some grapes to try. On his counter there were only a few boxes of these grapes, definitely not enough to make a living off. A red sign behind the men said Fujioka Farms. “Well, I am retired now and with all the money we make we can buy gas for the tractors and some new tools if we need to on our 10 acres fields. The Japanese parents of my wife had started growing raisin grapes right after the Second World War and we want to keep the farm as long as possible.”
I hesitated but wanted to know. “And what if you can’t anymore?” He sighted invisibly and tried to smile. “Then we have to get rid of it and you’ll miss these special grapes.” Reason enough for me to buy two branches, write this story and enjoy the fun little grapes the way he told me.
The best way to enjoy raisin grapes to the max:
Spread them out on a plate to keep them best for a few days. If you won’t eat them within a day.
Only wash the ones you’re about to enjoy.
Cool. It’s really great to cool the grapes for 30-40 minutes in your fridge before eating them.
Or freeze. Put a small branch in your freezer before you go to sleep and put them in your water jug the next day. The raisin grapes keep the water cool and afterwards you can eat them. Beat that ice cubes!