Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Recipe for Love – Dry Me a Raisin

Dried fruit is fruit where the majority of the water has been dehydrated out of the fruit either by the sun or by a dehydrating machine. Dried fruit dates back to the fourth millennium BC in Mesopotamia. It was highly valued for its taste, nutrients and long shelf life. Today the same is true. Nearly half of all the dried fruit sold is raisins. The raisin is considered a traditional dried fruit because it is dried naturally in the sun. Cranberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries and mango are infused with a sweetener before drying.

The earliest mention of dried fruit goes back to Mesopotamia. Ancient tablets describe recipes for breads and cakes using dried fruit to sweeten. Dried fruit was also part of the Egyptian, Arabic, Roman, Greek and Mediterranean diet. Various recipes mixed dried fruits with spices and honey in breads and cakes 

In ancient China silk, ware and dried fruits were considered costly gifts. And dried fruit was a duty bound gift to a newly-married couple. The symbol of the dried fruit was good wishes for the future marriage. For example the dried  pear symbolized wishes for spouses to be always together, dried apricots meant a wish of success and well-being and as the apricot was a yellow-orange color representing the color of nobility they were a noble gift.. The dried cherry meant wishes for more tenderness in the relations, wishes for a young and youthful spirit and to show a sense of caring about a friend or lover.

The cultivation of grapes began in Armenia and the Eastern regions of the Mediterranean in the 4th century B.C. Raisins were manufactured by burying the grapes in the sand  beneath the desert sun. Quickly drying fruit, using the sun, spread across Northern Africa. The Phoenicians and the Egyptians popularized raisin production most likely because of their ideal climate for drying the grapes. They stored them in jars and allotted them to the temples. They also included raisins in breads and pastries that were made with honey, milk and eggs.

Raisins were highly prized and traded as valuable commodities. Although they are higher in sugar content than non-dried fruit; dried fruits supply plenty of nutrients, fiber and sweetness. Used in breads and and baked goods, sugar can be reduced while getting a supply of vitamins and minerals for bone health, cardiovascular health, oral health, intestinal health, weight management and meeting the standards for a healthy diet.

 In 1754 – George Washington begins his long residence at Mount Vernon. Raisins were a staple at the dinner table. Martha Washington prepared what she called a "plumb broth" made of marrow bones, bread, sugar, raisins, and currants. George proclaims it "the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Washington since our marriage." Now that’s a recipe for love!

An ancient Chinese philosopher once said:

            "Dried fruits are fruit learnt wisdom."

Doctor Lynn


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