The combination of their crunchy texture and sweet and tart flavors have made grapes a popular fruit to enjoy starting on Phase 2. There are thousands of grape varieties, both seeded and seedless. You’ll find a selection of some of these varieties in your local supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and health-food stores. Dark red grapes, in particular, contain antioxidant-rich compounds known as flavonoids, which have been shown to help improve heart health. Here are some pointers on buying, storing, and enjoying grapes:
Buying grapes: Some of the most popular varieties of grapes include Concord, Catawba, and Delaware. Grapes don’t ripen after they’re picked, which means that what you see is what you get. To make sure you're purchasing the ripest, sweetest grapes, look for bunches full of tender and plump fruit, and use the color of the grapes as a guide for buying. Green grapes should be a translucent yellow-green instead of an opaque grass-green. Red grapes should be crimson, and blue grapes should have a very dark hue, almost black. The powdery bloom, which is commonly found on dark-colored grapes, is a sign of freshness. Avoid grapes with wrinkled, sticky skin, or limp and brittle stems. You can also use a chef's trick to check for ripeness — grab a stalk of grapes and shake. If the fruit clings to the stems, the grapes are fresh; if they fall off, they're over-the-hill.
Storing grapes: Grapes should be stored in the refrigerator, unwashed and in a plastic bag. They will keep for up to a week, though quality will diminish with time. If they're left out on the counter, they will begin to wither and ferment almost immediately. Chances are that most grapes you buy in the supermarket have been sprayed with pesticides, so be sure to thoroughly wash them before eating. If you can find organic grapes, you can be sure they are pesticide free.
Enjoying grapes: Grapes make a great midmorning or midafternoon snack enjoyed with some lean protein, like reduced-fat cheese. They are best eaten right off the stem. You can also toss them into salads and desserts or use them as a garnish for main or side dishes. Fifteen grapes are considered one serving on the South Beach Diet. Here are some flavorful and fun ways to enjoy grapes:
- Combine halved grapes with sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and some diced mild or hot chiles (if desired) for a fruit salsa to top poultry, fish, or meat.
- Thread grapes onto skewers along with vegetable chunks for a healthy grilled appetizer.
- Top a white whole-wheat pizza with grape halves.
- Serve a plate of grapes, reduced-fat cheese, and toasted walnuts for a South Beach Diet-friendly dessert.