July 11, 2008

Ancient Greece through a delicate cluster

..petite pods of juicy sweet nectar.

Holding up an elegant row a whiff away; transports me to an ancient era of Grecian drama. When decadence meant hot baths, an abundance of fresh fruit, rich wines, artisan cheeses and beautiful servants waiting on your hand and foot. Who can possibly deny the pleasure in fantasizing about the very cliche --- 'dangling of a string of juicy ripe grapes' by the Greeks.
I discovered a little box of decadence for myself recently.Although called by the more glamorous name of "champagne grapes," this is actually the Black Corinth variety. They're extremely tiny (about 1⁄4 inch in diameter), violet to purple in color, and exceedingly sweet and juicy. Champagne grapes are available in clusters in specialty produce markets.

Here's a little more about the "Black Corinth" variety.

Black Corinth is a seedless ancient Greek grape variety prized for its super sweet pea-sized seedless red fruit. The fresh fruit is often marketed under the name "Champagne grapes" in U.S. specialty stores, but despite the name they are not used for making Champagne, nor wine. The dried fruit is marketed under the name "Zante Currants" or sometimes just "currants". Since they are about the same size as red and black currants many people confuse the two.

References in period cookbooks to "raisins of Corinth" actually refer to dried Black Corinth grapes. In fact, we get the English word "currant" from the name "Corinth" — for small black grapes that have been dried in the sun.

In wild grapes, the sexes grow on separate vines with male flowers on one plant, and female flowers on another. Black Corinth is an "almost male" variety in that the flowers have well developed anthers (male), but only tiny underdeveloped ovaries (female).

In order to yield sufficient fruit, Black Corinth needs to be carefully managed. In ancient times girdling was a standard practice in increasing the set and size of seedless grapes until the discovery of the plant hormone gibberellic acid and it's ability to do the same thing with less labor. Historically, Black Corinth was probably kept for its pollen producing abilities so that other female flowered varieties (with naturally higher yields) would set full crops.

Kay... too much information.
Fact is; these grapes are awesome! Greek or not... they are my favourite little juicy gems!

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