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Grapes: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

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As stated earlier, grapes were brought over to North America by Spanish missionaries to produce wine. It is indicated that when the Europeans first came to North America, grapes grew so exceptionally, they named the place “Vineland”. Grape species that are native to us are V.labrusca, a slipskin fox grape that is used as fresh grapes, or for producing grape juice, jelly, flavoring, and kosher wines. V.aestivalis, a summer grape, was the oldest American grape, this species was very well suited for winemaking, but was difficult to cultivate. By extending the trade and wine industry over to North America, it has created many jobs, and tourist attention for Canada and brought upon a remarkable economic impact. Although grapes didn’t originate from Canada, nor did wine, Canada is well known for its ice wine, being internationally received as a well sought out Canadian product.

Ice wine is made from frozen grapes, which was created in 1794, in Germany, when some grapes accidentally froze and farmers didn’t want to waste them. They pressed them anyways, and the result was a sweet dessert wine. Just like everywhere else, Canada’s main use of grapes are for wine, Canada only started producing ice wine around 40 years ago but gained global interest quickly by winning many competitions. Before that, no one really sought after Canadian wine, as it was unheard of. Canada’s weather is perfect for making ice wine, as the process is very tedious and risky. The typical wine grapes are harvested from September to October, but ice wine grapes are left on the vine until they are frozen and are harvested near the end of December or January. These grapes are to be harvested and pressed while still frozen, the temperature has to be below freezing. Ice wine production has to follow set rules, “According to Canadian wine law, grapes designated for icewine cannot be picked until the mercury drops to at least -8°C, although colder temperatures make for a better quality product. The sugar level of the grapes at the time of harvest must reach a reading of at least 35 Brix. The bunches must also be attached to the vine until they are harvested”. These requirements are very limiting, hence why only small amounts of ice wine can be produced and the expensive pricing. Ice wine grapes make approximately 1/5th the amount of wine that regular unfrozen grapes do, comparing one glass of ice wine to a whole bottle of red wine when pressing the same amount of grapes. We should be proud that Canada is the world’s largest producer of this delicacy.

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Even though grapes are grown globally, Canada’s relationship with this fruit is very special and significant. It may be difficult to see a tie between grapes and Canadian cuisine at first, but it has always been present in our recipes, from using raisins in traditional butter tarts, to pressing frozen grapes into ice wine. Additionally, it fits in with Lenore Newman’s criteria for Canadian cuisine, “Newman identified five criteria that define Canadian cuisine: wild food, seasonal food, regional food, multiculturalism and a focus on ingredients ahead of recipes”. Grapes can be put into each category, starting with being a wild food, grapes can be found naturally in many places. Grapes are also seasonal, being planted in the winter and springtime, and harvested during the late summer to fall months. Grapes in Canada are only produced in 4 provinces, Ontario, Quebec, British Colombia, and Nova Scotia, but they are in very specific areas, the two main regions are in Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, and in Okanagan Valley, B.C. Multiculturalism can easily be seen in grapes, grapes are grown globally, it is recognized in many parts of this world. It originated in Asia but has spread everywhere and is now a part of many cultures and their cuisine. Lastly, Grapes can be more ingredient-focused than in recipes, this fruit is used in a variety of ways, from using them as dyes and flavoring to medicine with their many health benefits. We can conclude that this all points to the fact that grapes are and have always been part of Canadian cuisine.

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