Grapes need their seeds
I was at the market on Saturday, I got there early and it was lovely to see mountains of fresh produce just waiting to be brought and eaten. I went over to the fruit section where there had some beautiful looking grapes but was disappointed to only see seedless varieties available. Does anyone realise that we are missing out on a whole lot of goodness by choosing these seedless varieties?
My father grew up on a wine farm in Franschhoek and loves grapes. He planted grapes on the verandah of our home. They created a beautiful green shade cover in summer. Then in winter when you wanted the sun only the bare branches would remain. I remember many summer days eating outside under the vines.
I am not sure what varieties he planted but I remember big bunches would hang down often still too high to reach. We found ways to pick them and tried to avoid the bees that flocked to the grapes, getting bee stings was part of the summer experience!
The grapes had a thick skin and I would squeeze the flesh out leaving the skin behind. The flesh was sweet and juicy and then I would bite into the seeds, the taste of sharp bitterness would engulf my mouth and somehow make the sweetness taste even sweeter.
I do understand why we prefer to have our grapes without seeds they get in the way of all that delicious sweetness and are a pain to spit out. But we are forgetting that nature has provided us with a beautifully packaged healthy fruit and we have decided to change it. Taking out the grape seeds is like taking out the seeds in pomegranates.
There is a walk I do with my dogs that takes me past some wild grape vines. I love picking these when they are ripe. The fruit is sparse and the skins are thick with only a little flesh and big bitter seeds. So different from any grapes we can buy today.
I have noticed how we constantly crave sweeter and sweeter foods avoiding the bitter flavour wherever we can. The bitterness is just as important as the sweetness. All the better when you can have a bit of sweetness with the bitter, like in a grape.
Bitter seeds are good for us
The bitter taste of the seeds is because of the flavonoids and polyphenols these are phytonutrients found in grape seeds, they are also in olives (Olives The Giving Tree). Grapes also have another powerful antioxidant called Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins Complex (OPC) This compound is found in the grape seeds and also in the grape skin, where it is known as Resveratrol.
You may have heard of the French Paradox, the French have a diet rich in cheese and saturated fats and yet have low levels of cardiovascular disease. This is attributed to the red wine that is part of their diet and for that matter common in Mediterranean countries. It is the OPC’s in the wine (from grape skins) that helps to keep them healthy.
OPC’s protect against oxidative stress and tissue damage. If you needed some convincing as to why they are good for you here are some compelling reasons:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is a good thing
Improve circulation, important if you suffer from venous insufficiency
Improve blood flow, help reduce oedema (leg swelling)
Reduced joint inflammation, good for arthritis
Support and protects an ageing brain Improve wound healing
Good for the skin as it helps the body make collagen and repairs damage
Helps prevent nerve and eye damage like macular degeneration
Antibacterial and anti-viral
With this long list why would you be spitting out your grape seeds or only buying the seedless options. We are missing out on a key health benefit of grapes.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seeds are a waste product of wine production that is why it is often sold as a supplement where the seeds have been ground and put into capsules. The seeds are also processed into cooking oil. There is much talk of the health benefits of using grapeseed oil for frying because of its high heat point. But when I look at the information I am not convinced that it is really a healthy option and would rather use coconut oil when needing a high heat or olive oil when sautéing.
Which Grapes to Buy
When out shopping the only variety I have found that has seeds are Red Globe grapes most grapes are heavily sprayed, they make it onto the Dirty Dozen list with the most toxic chemicals on them. If you can find organic red grapes then it may be worth investing in them. If you cannot find organic then make sure to wash them well. I leave mine to soak in water with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for about 20 minutes. I make sure they are dry and keep them in the fridge or freezer where they are like little flavour bombs on a hot summers day.
I am always hopeful that as informed consumers we have the power to change the food choices that are available to us. If we start asking for grapes with seeds then maybe we will start seeing more options become available.
In the meantime, if you know where to get organic grapes with their seeds please share on Facebook.