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AMAZING BENEFITS OF GRAPES

From being used in dishing out sinful desserts and refreshing fruit bowls to being renowned as the primary ingredient in the wine making process, it is not without reason that grapes are known as the queen of fruits. Classified under the family of berries, grapes come in different varieties as well as colours – green, red, blue, purple and black. While majority of the production of grapes in the world are used by the wine making industry, the remaining lot is consumed as fruits and a small portion is used in making dried fruits.

Tracing its roots, it is said that grapes were first domestically cultivated in the Middle East, where it soon became popular when the city of Shiraz started using it to make wine. Eventually, other countries also started growing it and using it in the wine making process.

grapes farming
Grapes farming

Grapes are easily available in the markets throughout the year. The vine containing the cluster of berries are not only pretty to look at and delicious with its sweet and tasty taste, but are loaded with essential nutrients that work for the well-being of the body.

Why Grapes are Good for You?

Researchers and many studies have found that including grapes in one’s diet can be good for health as it has numerous health benefiting properties –

1.  Loaded with Antioxidants
Grapes are a powerhouse of antioxidants – they contain a wide range of phytonutrients right from carotenoids to polyphenols. Studies have revealed that these phytonutrients help in preventing certain kinds of cancers and help in maintaining heart health. Among polyphenols, resveratrol is known for its miraculous properties such as inhibiting the formation of free radicals that could cause cancer and dilating blood vessels to ease blood flow and lower blood pressure. Point to note: The antioxidant content is the highest in the seeds and the skin. So, do make use of them.

2. Prevents Skin Problems
It is found that resveratrol prevents signs of ageing and other skin problems. According to a study conducted by the team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), resveratrol, when combined with a common acne medication benzoyl peroxide, fights the acne causing bacteria.

3. High Source of Potassium
The nutritional breakup of grapes reveals that per 100 grams of the fruit contains 191 mg of potassium. High intake of potassium and lowering sodium content can help your body in numerous ways. Potassium also counteracts excess sodium. A low-sodium-high-potassium diet has proven beneficial for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart health in most cases. A bloated stomach can invite many health-related problems. Cutting down on salt intake and focusing on potassium-rich fiber can help in getting a flat stomach.

  1. Good for the Eyes
    According to a study done by University of Miami, Florida, grapes promote eye health from signaling changes at the cellular level to directly countering oxidative stress. Including grapes in the diet results in lower levels of inflammatory proteins and higher amounts of protective proteins in the retinas, which is the part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light, known as photoreceptors.5. Boost Brain Power
    Certain studies have found that resveratrol helps in increasing blood flow to the brain, thereby it could help speed up mental responses and prove to be beneficial for those suffering from brain related ailments like Alzheimer’s. A study done by the University of Switzerland also found that resveratrol can help remove plaques and free radicals, which affect the brain.6. Good for the Knees
    A study done by Texas Woman’s University has established that daily intake of grapes can help get relief from knee pain, especially the ones triggered due to symptomatic osteoarthritis. Grapes are high on antioxidants, most important and beneficial one being polyphenols, which help in improving the flexibility and mobility of joints.

    7. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
    It has been found that grapes contain certain enzymes which bring about anti-inflammatory effect in our body. As such it brings about relief to the arteries, promotes heart health and helps in other repair functions of the body.

How to Include Grapes in Your Diet

Besides all the health benefits, grapes are also loaded with vitamins and essential minerals such as Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C and D, calcium, iron and magnesium. However, one shouldn’t overload on grapes as they also contain sugar. It is said that berries should be included at least 3-4 days in a person’s weekly diet plan. And one should always consume a mix of fruits for better benefits. Although if you are consuming only grapes alone, then the serving per day could be 2-3 cups, considering each cup contains about 15-20 grapes.

Related Story: Apple farming in Kenya: mitigating risks

Cooking with Grapes

The juicy flesh and the sweet and tasty flavor make this fruit an ideal ingredient to cook with. Enjoy them whole by adding them to fruit bowls and summer salads. Try and get your hands on the different colored grapes (blue and red) to add some drama to your dish. Team them with pearl barley, lettuce, chopped cucumber, capsicum – choices are aplenty!

Coming to baking, you can use them to make berry tarts and clafoutis, top them on pavlovas or pannacottas, roast them along with chicken, or make tea cakes. You could also use them to make sweet and spicy chutneys, compotes and sauces; shake up some refreshing cocktails; or even use them to make sorbets.

Why not plant grapes today?

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How To Become A Successful Grape Farmer in Kenya

Grapes are often ignored in home gardens, and yet are one of the most widely produced fruit in the world—as well as beautifully ornamental plants. We have plenty of tips for growing grapes in your own backyard.

Make sure you purchase grape vines from Oxfarm. Vigorous, 1-year-old plants are best. Smaller, sometimes weaker, 1-year-old plants are often held over by the nursery to grow another year and are then sold as 2-year-old stock.

Grape farming has the potential to create employment and wealth among Kenyan farmers’ especially young farmers who are ready to try something new. Grapes’ growing is still in its formative stage even though there are grapevine orchards in different parts of Kenya that are more than 20 years old. More farmers and home gardeners should be encouraged to embrace this crop. Farmers can go an extra mile and establish wine making cottage industries that will improve the economic outlook of their locality. There is a lot to be done to ensure farmers are well trained on grape cultivation and value addition to guarantee high quality produce that will rival imported grapes and wine.

The crop is a woody perennial vine having the ability, to live beyond 500 years. There are many grape varieties; they include, French grapes also known as Vitis vinifera, American grapes- vitis labrusa and Mediterranean/ Muscatine grapes. The most widespread grapes species is Vitis vinifera; a native of Europe grown on the world’s most land acreage.

The crop prefers warm to hot temperatures; during fruiting, the weather must be sunny and dry. Warm environmental temperatures during fruit ripening, is important in increasing the sugar content of berries while reducing their acidity. This explains why grapes grown under irrigation in hot deserts or semi deserts are sweeter than those from cold humid areas. The crop can grow in any soil, from sandy to heavy clays but the soil should be deep and well drained. Where the rainfall is scant, supplement it with an irrigation of 500 mm of water during the cropping season. In Kenya, the cropping season is September to March. Irrigation should be withheld after the long rains to force the crop to go dormant. In August to September, fruit buds form thus it is important to keep the plant healthy and well manured.

Related Post: Lucrative Passion-Fruit Farming In Kenya

How To Plant Grapes

  • Plant dormant, bare-root grape vines in the early spring.
  • Construct a trellis or arbor before planting. Grape vines will need to be trained to some sort of support to grow upward. This will also cut the risk of disease.
  • Most grape varieties are self-fertile. To be sure, ask when you are buying vines if you will need more than one plant for pollination.
  • Before planting grapevines, soak their roots in water for two or three hours.
  • Select a site with full sun. If you don’t have a spot with full sun, make sure it at least gets morning sun. A small amount of afternoon shade won’t hurt. Your soil needs to be deep, well-drained, and loose. You also need good air circulation.
  • Space vines 6 to 10 feet apart (16 feet for muscadines).
  • For each vine, dig 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill with 4 inches of topsoil. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery.
  • Cover the roots with 6 inches of soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don’t tamp this down.
  • Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time.
  • Water at time of planting.

How To Care For Grapes

  • In the first couple of years, the vine should not be allowed to produce fruit. It needs to strengthen its root system before it can support the extra weight of fruit.
  • Pruning is important. Not only would vines run rampant without control, but canes will only produce fruit once. Prune annually when vines are dormant, in March or April. This is before the buds start to swell, but when winter damage is apparent.
  • Don’t be afraid to remove at least 90 percent of the previous season’s growth. This will ensure a higher quality product. Remember, the more you prune, the more grapes you will have.
  • In the first year, cut back all buds except for 2 or 3. Then, select a couple of strong canes and cut back the rest. Make sure the remaining canes are fastened to the support.
  • In the second year, prune back all canes. Leave a couple of buds on each of the arms. Remove flower clusters as they form.
  • Do not fertilize in the first year unless you have problem soil. Fertilize lightly in the second year of growth.
  • Use mulch to keep an even amount of moisture around the vines.
  • A mesh net is useful in keeping birds away from budding fruit.

How to harvest Grapes

  • If grapes aren’t ripening, pinch back some of the foliage to let in more sunlight.
  • Grapes will not continue ripening once picked from the vine. Test a few to see if they are to your liking before harvesting, usually in late summer or early fall.
  • Grapes are ripe and ready to harvest when they are rich in color, juicy, full-flavored, easily crushed but not shriveled, and plump. They should be tightly attached to the stems. Sample different grapes from different clusters, and the taste should be between sweet and tart. Check our ripeness guide for more tips on color.