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Importance of grapes (Vitis Vinifera L.) for human sustenance
Indian diet is very poor and lacks in essential contents of vitamins and minerals. As compared to many developed countries, and even some developing countries, our per capita per day consumption of fruits is one of the lowest (46 gm), being much below the minimum daily requirement (85g/person/day). Among various fruit crops, grape (Vitis vinifera L.) is one of the important fruit crops grown - not only in India but on the entire planet. Grapes play a vital role in meeting our nutritional needs. Consumed as fresh or in processed form, they provide essential ingredients such as sugars, acids, tannins, vitamins, minerals, and etc., which in turn, plays a major role in meeting food and nutritive security within us and our country.

FRUITS ARE undoubtedly the cheap sources of nutrition. Today, we feel proud that India is the leading producer of fruit crops in the world. But unfortunately, majority of us, the Indians do not get their basic daily requirement. Dr. T. K. Bose in his book 'Fruits of India: Tropical and Sub Tropical' (1985) stated that "Our diet is very poor and lack in essential contents of vitamins and minerals. As compared to many developed countries, and even some developing countries, our per capita per day consumption of fruits is one of the lowest (46 gm), being much below the minimum daily requirement (85g/person/day). Fruits are main sources of vitamins, which help in the maintenance of proper health and resistance to diseases. They also provide minerals like calcium, iron etc. the deficiencies of which may lead to disturbances in the metabolism and can cause several ailments."

Among various fruit crops, grape (Vitis vinifera L.) is one of the important fruit crop grown not only in India but also in the entire planet. In India, it is believed that Muslim invaders introduced it between 13th and 14th Century. Recently, its cultivation is concentrated in the peninsular India and some major grape-growing states of the country are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, etc.

Thompson Seedless, Bangalore Blue, Anab-e-Shahi, Dilkhush, Sharad Seedless, Perlette, Gulabi, and Bhokri, etc., are some popular grape varieties grown in the country. Grapes are mostly used for preparation of wine. Apart wine preparation, they are also used in preparation of raisins and extraction of juices. Some are consumed as fresh fruits having attractive appearance with good keeping and eating quality. Berries are of uniform size and adhere to the stalk tightly. Beauty Seedless, Perlette, Pusa Seedless, Thompson Seedless, Bangalore Blue etc. are some examples of such type of grapes and these are known as table grapes. Some of these table grapes like Thompson Seedless, Pusa Seedless, Kishmish Beli etc. have high sugar content.

Therefore, they are dried for preparation of raisins. Early Muscat, Champion, Black Champa etc. varieties are used for preparation of sweet juices and Bayan Sheree, Chesnin Blanc, Sauvignon for preparation of wines. Thus, growing of grapes (viticulture) affords raw materials to wine making industries which in turn provide employment to people. In England, the ashes of burned branches are used as abrasive. The plants also provide aesthetic beauty.

In recent years, cultivation of grapes are extended to landscaping and fencing of orchards. In some places the plants are trailed to pergola to add beautification to the garden.Grapes play a vital role in meeting our nutritional needs. Consumed as fresh or in processed form they provide essential ingredients like sugars, acids, tannins, vitamins, minerals etc. which in turn play a major role in meeting food and nutritive security within us and our country. Sugars found in grapes are primarily glucose and fructose accounting 10 to 30 % or more of the weight of the mature fruits.

Apart from these, grapes also contain sucrose, raffinose, maltose, galactose etc. Sugars are easily digestible and in turn provides energy. Higher concentration of tartaric acid, citric acid and malic acid are seen in grapes at pre ripening stages. Deficiency of vitamin C leads to disorder of skin, scurvy, lack of resistant to diseases, etc. Tartaric acid found in grapes acts as a stimulant to kidneys and is responsible for both biological stability and longevity of wine.

Tanins present in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes are also essential component of red wines. Well ripened grapes help in production of good quality red wines and these wines can age for a long time. Vitamins provide resistance against various diseases. Vitamin A leads to night blindness and xeropthalmia. Presence of thiamin in the berries are essential against paralysis, beri beri, loss in weight etc. Cataract, lack of appetite, soreness of the tongue, scaliness of the skin etc. are observed due to deficiency of riboflavin. Formation and development of bones are directly related to the presence of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Presence of iron in the berries enhances formation of red blood corpuscles in the blood. Its deficiency leads to anemia in the body. In addition to these elements, presence of potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese have been observed in traces (0.1 to 0.2%). In 2001, Dr. Charanjit Kaur and Dr. S. B. Mani in Indian Horticulture (2001) stated that, "flavonoids and other phenolics present in grape and grape products have been shown to possess anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombic and anti-oxidant effects. The ability of phenolic substances in prevention of atherosclerosis and risk reduction of cardiovascular diseases has been aptly demonstrated by the benefits of red wine consumption often referred as French Paradox. The paradox refers to epidemiological findings that in certain parts of France where wine consumption is high, coronary heart disease mortality is low despite relatively high cholesterol levels in population".

In summary, it is seen that, apart from providing us important nutrient constitutes, grapes are useful in various aspects. In each and every section of the society, awareness in consumption of grapes are required to be disseminated to fight against malnutrition. It is the foremost duty of the researchers, planners, farmers to join hands towards raising the production of berries, such that, they reach each and every part of the country, the states, the districts, the blocks keeping in view the choices of the consumers. Stress on improvement of cultivation practices, multiplication of desirable healthy rootstocks identified for different areas, crop improvement through selection of bud mutants, nucellar lines, hybridization and genetic engineering, transfer of technology from lab to land etc. will certainly help to improve grape industry and nutritional security of the country.

(About the Contributor: Dr. P. P. Paul is a Horticulturist)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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