6 Fascinating Facts About Grapes
Grapes are popular fresh, and people also love consuming them as wine, jam, juice, various dried varieties, jelly, vinegar, grape seed extract, and grape seed oil. It’s this versatile popularity, coupled with the many countries that harbor good growing conditions, that have crowned the grape as one of the world’s most economically important crops. Here are some fascinating facts about one of the most ubiquitous fruits.
1. Grapes are used to make synthetic leather.
In the quest to find cruelty-free and more environmentally friendly synthetic leather, Vegea, an Italian company founded in 2018, has made a fully recyclable and biodegradable product from the grape waste left over from winemaking.
Grape leather is being used for a whole host of products, including vegan-friendly shoes, bags, and boxing gloves.
2. Grapes can be deadly to your pet.
Grapes and their derivatives (raisins, wine, and grape juice) are toxic to dogs: They can cause kidney failure, which can ultimately be fatal. In 2021, vets at the ASPCA discovered that tartaric acid contained in the fruit is the culprit. Symptoms of grape poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive thirst.
3. The grapes you eat are different from the ones used in winemaking.
The qualities desired from the ones you eat fresh (table grapes) are quite different from those required for wine production (wine grapes). The seeds and thicker skins on wine grapes lend more flavor and color to the wine, while their greater sweetness aids the fermentation process. Table grapes tend to be larger and more palatable: juicy with firmer flesh and a less concentrated flavor, with a thinner skin and fewer seeds.
4. China leads the way in table grape production and consumption.
Thanks to its favorable climate and growing conditions, China has been growing grapes for more than 2000 years. Consumption is expected to increase from 11.8 million metric tons in 2021–2022 to 12.4 million metric tons in 2022–2023, making China the world’s largest consumer.
China doesn’t just consume a lot of grapes. The country’s expected table grape production in 2022–2023 is 12.6 million tons—more than half of the world’s grape production—making it the world’s top grape producer as well.
5. Grapes were probably the first fruit domesticated by humans.
In 2023, researchers published genetic evidence that grapevines were domesticated around 11,000 years ago. By studying grape genome sequences, they found that the fruit was independently domesticated in two separate regions concurrently: the region in western Asia home to Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, and the region covered by modern-day Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. As the scientists remarked, “The grapevine was probably the first fruit crop domesticated by humans … It was one of the first globally traded goods.”
6. The largest grape variety is the Kyoho.
The Kyoho grape is a European-American hybrid that originated in Japan in 1937. Originally popular in Japan and China but now found worldwide. The Kyoho breeder named the result Kyoho, which translates to “great mountain peak,” in honour of Mount Fuji. The oblong grapes are 2–4 centimeters big. Their skin ranges from dark violet to almost black in color, and their green flesh is very sweet. The seeds and thick skins are bitter and often discarded. Fortunately, the Kyoho possesses a “slip-skin,” meaning the skin slides off easily, leaving the flesh intact.