Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Off the Grocery Shelves: Grapes
I recently returned from a weekend expedition to the sunny San Francisco Bay Area. Besides seeing friends and enjoying the lovely weather, I of course made it to one of my old haunts - the California Avenue Farmers Market. It is astounding how much more amazing are California farmers markets than those on the east coast. Despite September coming to a close, I could get almonds and walnuts, green beans and long beans, plums and peaches galore. And yes, I bought grapes.
While grapes do grow out here, California is known for its wine country and associated vineyards. Humans have had a long love affair with this fruit, dating back to ancient Persia. Evidence of wine-making dates back to 6,000 BCE in Georgia (the country, not the state) and domestication around 3,200 BCE. Don't forget that grapes figure into biblical passages over and over, making this "fruit of the vine" a popular edible.
But grapes have become so banal. You have your green and your purple; your Thompsons and Flames. But grapes come in many shapes and sizes, at least 100! At the market I picked up some Concord, reminiscent of that Welch's grape juice box you slurped as a child. The petite muscats possess a delicacy that is hard to pinpoint. I grabbed some bunches of crisp gentle reds and some juicy seeded greens to complete my haul. And what enjoyable plunder it was!
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