I didn’t think I would do this ever again, that is, do a “fruit review,” but here I am ready to review something so ordinary and so prevalent in our lives that it seems silly that this topic needs reviewing. Or at least that’s what I thought when I wrote my first piece on fruit. I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. It is my greatest belief that the most common things in our life are the ones that we know the least about. So, I will take this opportunity to truly make you know everything you need to know about grapes. I will do this with great appreciation for the grape, since I am a horticulturist first and engineer second.
Where does the word grape even come from? Truth be told, it came to English in a rather roundabout way. As you may or may not know, a grape is botanically a berry and historically the grape had been called a “winberie.” There is no such thing is a “failberie.” No, the name was derived as a result of the grape’s use as a key ingredient of wine (England at the time had a dryer and warmer climate and was known for its wineries). This was of course before France rose to prominence. When France began to harvest grapes, they would use a hook called a grappe, like a grappling hook. I think you get the idea. Dictionary.com tells me that the root of the word is Germanic and so it must be. Now that you know where the word grape comes from, how does that help you appreciate the grape more? Unless you’re the lexicography nerd that I am, it doesn’t, but I’ve got a couple of other interesting details sure to fit your fancy.
How about the actual source of the grape? Domestication of purple grapes began in what is now southern Turkey. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics record the cultivation of purple grapes and history attests to the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans growing purple grapes. Eventually the grape reached North America and quickly spread through the region like wildfire.
Grapes grow in clusters of 6–300 and can be in all sorts of colors ranging from crimson, black, blue, yellow, green, and for you ladies out there, even pink! Fun fact, white grapes are actually green in color and come from the same evolutionary family as the purple grape. Now I could go into the detail of the genetics behind why green grapes are green and not purple, but I will ask that you just read the Wikipedia article on grapes for that information instead.
So grapes are old, they have been cultivated for thousands of years, and their name has been constantly evolving. Great. What does that do for us anyway? I will grant you that it doesn’t do much for our stomachs, but do you know what does? How about jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, raisins, and not to mention that grapes are used in some kinds of confectioneries? Are your taste buds watering yet? If not, well there’s also that little thing called wine and if that’s not a good enough reason for you to appreciate grapes, then what exactly are you doing reading an article about grapes?