Raisins. Those small but tasty fruits that are full of sweet and juicy flavour, in fact, one could describe them as nature’s very own candy! They are featured in many traditional British baking recipes, but can also be used in savoury dishes, along with being a quick and healthy snack.
But what even are they and are raisins any good for you? And what’s the difference between raisins and sultanas? Well, we have the answers for you right here in this very article. Read on raisin fans!
How Are Raisins Made?
Raisins are in fact dried grapes. The grapes can be dried either by the sun or by a mechanical process, which results in what we call, raisins. These dried fruits are produced and eaten all over the world. The drying process affects the shape, sizes, colours, and flavours.
You may wonder why it is then that raisins don’t actually taste like grapes, considering most dried fruits still taste like their fresh counterparts. This is possibly because the drying process concentrates the sugar content in the fruit. As grapes ripen there is also a flavour progression.
Raisins probably came to exist entirely by accident. It is said they were likely discovered in prehistoric times when some grapes were accidentally left out and dried in the sun. Some curious growers decided to try the wrinkled fruit and enjoyed the sweetness of them - What a tasty mishap! Guess everything happens for a raisin 😉
Different Types of Raisins
There are many different varieties of raisins out there, but here are some of the most popular and well known types, and the differences between them -
The most famous guys on this list are the standard raisin. They are a type of grape that has been dried for around three weeks. As the grapes dry the begin to darken in colour, which is what gives raisins their dark brown colour.
Raisins are generally made from the Thompson Seedless variety. However, in Australia, raisins are made exclusively from larger grape varieties including Muscat, Lexia, and Waltham Cross.
Standard raisins are typically larger than sultanas and currants, they are dark in colour, have a soft texture, a sweet flavour.
Sultanas are made from green seedless grapes, usually the Thompson Seedless variety.
Unlike raisins, sultanas are usually coated in an oil-based solution prior to drying to speed up the process. For this reason, they are often lighter in colour than raisins and currants.
Sultanas are typically smaller than raisins and are sweeter, juicer and lighter in colour than both raisins and currants.
Currants, also referred to as “Zante currants,” are tiny, dried grapes.
Despite their name, currants are actually made by drying a variety of small, seedless grapes called Black Corinth and Carina. Currants, much like raisins, are dried for up to three weeks.
Because of their small size, they have a sweet, tangy, and intense flavour and add texture and sweetness to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Health Benefits of Raisins
So now we know what they are, are raisins actually good for you? Well good news for the raisin lovers, there are actually many health benefits to be had by including them in your diet.
Firstly, raisins contain higher levels of antioxidants in comparison to other dried fruits. The process in which they are dried also helps to preserves these antioxidants, more so than in fresh grapes.
Raisins contain iron, which may aid in cardiovascular health. They’re also a good source of potassium, copper, manganese, and vitamin b6. Raisins have a good amount of calcium, which benefits bone health, and they contain the mineral, boron. Boron helps in maintaining good bone and joint health, can improve wound healing, and may improve cognitive performance.
Raisins are also a rich source of soluble fibre, which helps the digestive system and can reduces stomach problems. They also contain tartaric acid. which may have anti-inflammatory properties, can improve intestinal function, and aid in regulating the balance of bacteria in your gut.