The other day I was relaxing outside soaking up some sun and I was thinking, I’ve always found it so interesting how a simple thing like the rays from the sun can provide us with such life, energy and feelings of happiness. The connection between the energy that we feel when we spend time outside on a sunny day vs. the energy that our grapes soak up while they bathe and dry in the sun has to be very similar. But I wanted to learn more about this...
It’s already pretty apparent to us why sun dried is better, and we’ll get to that later in this article. But a common question that comes up when thinking about this is “why are vine-dried raisins tastier and healthier than any other raisins?
Raisins that stay on the grape vine for the drying process don’t have the infamous caramelization that occurs when grapes/raisins sit on paper trays on the ground. Vine Dried raisins require more time to dry. Just like good wine, the flavor becomes better with time.
What changes the taste
Grapes have a very juicy and relatively sweet flavor already before they are dried and become raisins. Filled with moisture and natural sweetness, thinking about them makes my mouth water! However, when a grape goes through its drying process, the heat (whether from the sun, or dehydrators) causes the water to evaporate from the grapes. Over time the moisture is inside the grapes decreases until they become what we know as raisins. An average grape (when raw) is about 80% water. The amount of water in raisins has dropped to about 15% when finished drying out.
Another interesting fact is that the reason raisins have a much sweeter and more sugary taste is because the heat during the “drying out” phase warms up the sugar and causes a caramelization. This texture is commonly associated with raisins and some people like it more than others. There has been a lot of research into how to change the specific flavor and textures of the raisins (which I note more about down below). However the main reason the taste is changed so much when a grape turns into a raisin, is because of the heating or drying out process and the heating up of the sugar causing that sweet caramelized flavor and chewy texture.
Different types of grapes
Grapes are grown all over the world. Many are taken straight to the kitchen to eat, while a lot of grapes are grown simply to let them dry out and become raisins. The Food and Agriculture Organization even says that 70 percent of the grapes grown in the world are used to make wine. That being said, there are many different types of grapes out there and they’re all used for a variety of different things. For fun, here are a few names you might have seen!
This commonly known name today was a grape developed in 1849 by Ephraim Wales Bull. Many are familiar with the Welch's Grape Juice that uses these big, bright and mouth watering grapes that many of us enjoy.
These grapes are great as regular table grapes but are commonly used for raisins. However, a more recent variation on this has led to a revolution in how we are able to produce higher grade (quality) raisins for you.
This is the grape that changed the game in how farmers can produce raisins. Selma pete is a cross between 3 types of grapes that led to not only higher yields, but averaging a 5-10% better grade quality than the traditional thompson seedless and fiesta, which are both relatively similar kinds of grapes.
The Selma Pete also ripens a lot earlier than most of the other grapes that farmers used for raisins before. The long time it took to ripen was a problem that a lot of raisin companies previously had to deal with. With this variety we’ve been able to leave the grapes out to dry where they belong, out in the sun!
The evolution of technology
Grape farming has been going on for a long time. Originating in the middle east, it’s something that developed across the entire world and across industries. Wines, juicies, jams, snacks… So many varieties of grapes have been bred by farmers up to this day. You can learn more about the history of farming grapes here.
According to a research article, Dried On Vine (DOV) is a process that began its revolution around 1965. Unfortunately the technology just was not there yet for most farmers to be able to justify the expensive trellising and harvesting equipment needed for these DOV methods.
Through improvements in technology and the breeding of the Selma Pete, we’ve been able to efficiently produce raisins that can stay off the ground and up on the vine!
The science behind the quality
What is it that makes the raisin taste so much better when it’s dried on the vine? As we learned in the beginning of the article, when drying on the grape vine they are able to soak up the sun for a little longer which leads to more depth in flavor. In addition, the grape we use (Selma Pete) is a special variety that allows the grape to ripen quicker, which gives the grapes even more time on the vine to dry. So overall the flavor just gets better with time!
The real difference though is that when grapes sit down on paper trays in the dirt to dry, they often become sunburnt from the excess heat that happens down on the sheets. This extra heat (sometimes exceeding ambient temperatures by 30 to 40 degrees) heats up the sugars in the grapes and creates that caramelized flavor that many people don’t like.
This is why we swear by these not only more efficient methods… but methods that also yield much better taste, texture and quality.
To test out the vine dried difference, check out our Raisins-Revamped here.
Where our raisins came from
The best kinds of foods come straight from farm to table. We truly believe that and we know it’s important to our fans that they know what happens on this journey, so we wanted to talk about the process that brings our vine-dried grapes to your table.
Starting by using our Selme Pete variety, our fields of grape vines located in central valley region california are organized so we can harvest them directly from the vine with our state of the art farming equipment. The vines are held up in the air as a canopy so that the warmth from the sun can evenly spread over all of them, this assures each and every grape is at its best quality possible. As the grapes soak up the warmth of the sun, most of the water evaporates while the grapes are still being nourished on the vine.
After we harvest the grapes from their vines, we have multiple different options of flavors that the grapes, or now raisins, go through the process of. You can check out the different delicious varieties here.
The future of vine dried grapes
Grapes have been around for a long long time, probably since the beginning of time, (or somewhere around there) and they probably will stay around for a long time too, because it’s just one of nature’s most nutritious, mouth watering fruits.
When raisins took the turn from drying on trays on the ground, to drying on the vine in the air we saw, or tasted, a huge difference in quality and flavor. This was a major upgrade for the quality of raisins.
Vine Dried Grapes are absolutely the future and will prove to be as more and more farmers around the world make their way to these methods. For now, we are extremely proud to be the early adopters of these methods and of the delicious taste and quality that has come from the advancements not only in technology but our own research into allowing nature to do its best work on the food it grows!