Monday April 30th is National Raisin Day. When you think of raisins, I’m sure it brings you back to your childhood when you would have them as a snack at school. However, raisins aren’t just a snack for kids – people of all ages can enjoy them in either sweet or savory recipes.
The raisin is underappreciated and I’m here to tell you all about it so you can truly celebrate this wonderful fruit today!
Through the Grapevine
Grapes, the fruit from which raisins are derived, have been part of the world’s agriculture for over 3000 years. In what are now Spain, Greece, and Turkey, raisins have been used as everything from currency to medicine. They began to be exported across Europe in the 11thcentury, and landed in North America in the 18thcentury with the Christian missionaries from Spain. These Spaniards landed in Mexico and taught the locals about their native Spanish viniculture, which is the art of cultivating of grapevines for winemaking.
As settlers moved north into California, they brought those viniculture skills with them. During periods of severe drought, it was difficult for farmers to harvest all of their crops before they dried on the vine. They soon realized this was a delicious mishap, and the San Joaquin Valley in California is now the largest supplier of the world’s raisins!
Raisins, Sultanas, and Currants, Oh My!
When you check out the raisin selection at your local grocery store, you may be surprised to find a wide variety of colors and types. The 3 main types are raisins, sultanas, and Zante currants.
- Raisins. The dark raisins you usually see are the most common type, made from green-skinned grapes that gradually darken as they dry.
- Sultanas.This type of raisin is labeled as “golden raisins,” which are grapes that start out with a yellowish skin. These stay light as they dry.
- Zante Currants.This raisin isn’t actually a currant at all – it’s actually tiny dried grapes! True currants are much more tart and aren’t as readily available in local supermarkets.
“Raisin” the Nutrition Bar and Your Meals
Raisins are not only delectable – they’re also packed with nutrients and are a very easy ingredient to add in to just about anything. Raisins are a good source of iron, copper, and manganese. They are also a high potassium food, which is great for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Raisins don’t have to just be eaten on their own! They can be incorporated into savory or sweet recipes. Here are 3 ideas to get started:
- Raisin Chicken Salad.Combine shredded chicken, celery, chopped walnuts and a handful of raisins with fat free Greek yogurt for a fancy chicken salad. Serve over mesclun greens or on a slice of whole-grain toast for a delicious and hearty meal!
- Oatmeal Raisin. Stir up some steel cut or old fashioned oats with milk, a spoonful of peanut butter, and top with a sprinkling of raisins. Leave this mixture in the fridge overnight for the perfect grab-and-go breakfast.
- Pine Nut and Raisin Meatballs.Mix up your meatballs by adding raisins and pine nuts to the meat mixture. Pan fry the meatballs until they’re browned, then pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Raisins are calorie dense, as are all dried fruits, but they can be a nutritious sweet snack to curb a craving for something sweet. Get out there and celebrate raisins this week!
Your turn to take action:How will you add raisins to your menu? Let me know in the comments below!