Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“Every man will sit under his own vines and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken,” wrote the prophet Micah in his book (4:4).
The vine is touted to be “the grape of antiquity,” as it was often mentioned in the Bible. In fact, it was honored most highly among the plants of the world when Jesus, during the last supper, declared: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1).
The word grape refers to the fruit. The plant is usually called the vine. The Holy Scriptures explained this in Genesis 40:10: “On the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes.”
Actually, there are several species of grapes, but the three most important are vinifera, labrusca, and rotundifolia. Most tables, wine, and raisin grapes are produced from Vitis vinefera, which Micah wrote of, and Jesus compared to.
In his book, Grape Growing, Robert J. Weaver notes: “Vitis vinefera originated in the regions between the south of the Caspian and Black seas in Asia Minor, has been carried from region to region by civilized man in all temperate climates, and has been grown more recently in subtropical climates.”
In Europe and Asia, it is known as the European or Old World grape. In the United States, where it was introduced by the Spaniards, it is called the California grape. The two other varieties of grapes are native to North America and are not grown extensively in other countries.
In the Bible, grapes were made into wine. Winifred Walker wrote in All the Plants of the Bible: “These bunches of grapes were thrown into a wine press, which was sometimes as large as a room and constructed underground, then trodden under foot by laborers. The juice of the squeezed grapes was made into wine and vinegar: this vinegar was poor wine, chiefly the drink of the Roman soldiers.”
Today, most of the grapes grown worldwide are still used to produce wine. For dry or table wines, grapes of high acidity and moderate sugar content are desirable, while grapes with high sugar content and moderately low acid are required for sweet or dessert wines.
In the Philippines, grapes are planted mainly for food and decorative purposes. These types of grapes have an attractive appearance, good eating qualities, good shipping, and storage qualities, and are resistant to an injury incurred in handling. Large berries of uniform size, with firm pulp, tough skin, a sturdy rachis, and strong adherence of berries to cap stems, are desirable, especially in grapes transported by truck, sea, or air.
Grapes for raisins are dried, either naturally or artificially, and are marketed in boxes lined with wax paper and in paper cartons. There are also grapes that are grown mainly for the manufacture of sweet unfermented juice.
Only seedless grapes are suitable for use in canned fruit. They are commonly utilized, alone or in combination with other fruits as fruit salad or fruit cocktail.
Let’s talk more about wine, which mostly comes from grapes. Wine is used to complement meals, and in countries where wine is cheap, it is served as the normal beverage at mealtime. In Spain, wine is used to improve the flavor of food in cooking.
Drinking too much wine is not suitable for your health. But moderate drinking is not harmful at all. Comparing diets among Western countries, researchers have discovered that although the French tend to eat higher levels of animal fat, surprisingly, the incidence of heart disease remains low in France. This phenomenon has been termed the French paradox and is thought to occur from the protective benefits of regularly consuming red wine.
In addition, a significant volume of research indicates moderate consumption – such as one glass of red wine a day for women and two for men – may confer health benefits. Emerging evidence is that wine polyphenols like resveratrol “provide physiological benefit whereas alcohol itself may have protective effects on the cardiovascular system.”
Grape phytochemicals such as resveratrol have been positively linked to inhibiting any cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, viral infections, and mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.