In Praise of Raisins

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It never occurred to me that I might write a piece on raisins. Dried grapes... big deal. The topic certainly isn't anywhere on my story-idea sticky notes.

Until yesterday, that is, when I came across these Red Flame raisins on the vine at a farmers' market in Ventura, California. Raisins on the vine are more plump than the dry shriveled kind you find in the box. If there would be such a thing as a "fresh raisin," this is it.

I bought them from Fife's Family Farm of Visalia, the same town where, as a young girl, my family and I used to pass through on our way to a cabin in the mountains and we would stop for raisins on the vine to nibble in the car. There were never any left to use in a recipe, nor were there any yesterday.

Maybe it's because I'm a mother and raisins are one of those universal foods for children, or maybe it's because I'm in California for two weeks, soaking up what the farms here have to give, but I'm suddenly thinking it's time to take stock of what raisins can do for us.

They sweeten without refined sugar and give texture to recipes, they are packed with fiber, have antioxidants, and they even deliver a little potassium and iron. We like to plop them into our hot cereal as it cooks in the morning. Try roasting them with cauliflower and breadcrumbs.

Here are some raisin-y recipes from our archive:

Rainbow Chard Salad with Raisins and Walnuts
Cinnamon Raisin Bagel Ice Cream
Sunflower Date Cookies
Whole Wheat Raisin English Muffins
Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce
Apple Walnut Bread Pudding

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