Raisins come from dehydrated grapes (drying) under the sun (traditional method) and belong to the category of dried fruits. Raisins are one of the most historic Greek products as reports of growing and drying raisins come from age of Homer and Aristotle. According to History raisins were discovered for the first time back in 2000 BC. The frescoes from ancient times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean regions of Europe.
Between 120-900 BC Phoenician settlers cultivated vineyards in Malaga regions of Valencia and Corinth. Around the same time, Armenians have cultivated their vineyards in Persia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq). These areas had a perfect climate for the production of raisins and were also close to Greece and Rome, which were the best markets for raisins.
Although they were widely known, raisins were not exported to the rest of Europe untill the 11th century AD, because it was not easy to maintain the quality during the long journey. Then the Knights returning from the Crusades they carried raisins with them and only then the packaging and shipping techniques have improved enough so that they were able to sent them throughout Northern Europe. By the mid-14th century, the raisins were an important part of English cuisine.
On the market one can find two varieties of raisins, black and blond raisins (or sultanas). The black raisin (currant) is usually smaller while the sultana is larger. On the 26th of January 2016 the European Commission approved the addition of a new Protected Geographical Indication from Greece: "Raisin sultana Crete» (Stafida Soultanina Kritis, PGI), dried grapes cultivated in Crete. The sultana raisin of Crete is produced from sultana grapes which are grown on the island and are harvested from mid August to mid September. Immediately after harvesting, they must be processed in order to ensure the production of a healthy dried product. The color of raisins, ranging from blonde to brown and the content of sugar can not be less than 75%. The weight of each raisin can vary from about 0.6 to 0.3 grams.
Whichever form is selected, the health benefits are the same. Raisins are a concentrated source of many nutrients. They are rich in energy, fiber, vitamins (A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K), minerals (iron, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, copper, zinc, sodium, calcium, potassium, boron), polyphenols, amino acids, etc., substances with strong antioxidant activity. It helps to control the levels of glucose and cholesterol, the good functioning of the digestive system and regulate blood pressure. Their content in fat and cholesterol is low and their carbohydrates have a low glycemic index, because they are composed by a large percentage of natural fructose.
* RDA: Recommended Daily Allowance
Raisins can be eaten raw, in vegetable or fruit salads, cereal or oatmeal or muesli in cookies or cakes, yogurt, with rice and combined with meat or poultry. Before adding the raisins in a dish, wash them well, so as to remove the sulfur and any small amounts of chemicals. Often, when processed in the factory, a little vegetable oil is added to the raisins.
Harvesting and marketing period: From August to October. The availability is all year round.
- American College of Cardiology. "Snacking on raisins may offer a heart-healthy way to lower blood pressure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2012.
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- Kountouri AM, Gioxari A, Karvela E, Kaliora AC, Karvelas M, Karathanos VT. Chemopreventive properties of raisins originating from Greece in colon cancer cells. Food Funct. 2013 Feb 26;4(3):366-72.
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