Yesterday I went to visit the most unusual farm in our area. Farms in and around Hoedspruit focus on the following products:
- Citrus fruit
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
These fruit and veg prosper here due to our really hot temperatures and those that need lower temperatures are grown in winter instead of summer as in other regions of South Africa. The peppers and tomatoes are grown under shade cloth to prevent sunburn, the many bugs we have here and to maintain lower temperatures. We don’t need hot houses here. We need cool houses.
For these reasons I thought it most unusual to hear about a highly successful grape farm just outside of town. Grapes? Here? No way! I had to go and see for myself.
Mr A kindly arranged for me to visit and accompanied me on a farm tour given by the farm owner yesterday. He grows table grapes.
There are 15 hectares of grapes grown under shade cloth on this farm. That is a LOT of shade cloth! In addition to the shade cloth, plastic sheets are used to cover the vines just before picking to stop the grapes getting wet. That is a LOT of plastic. The farmer told me that once the plastic has come off the vines he send it for recycling.
When he started his farm here in Hoedspruit many people told him that he was crazy – that there was no way to be successful with grapes in this area. He has proved everyone wrong and now produces the first table grapes of the season in South Africa – he has the market cornered until December when the grapes in other areas ripen.
They started picking two weeks ago and pick from 6am to 9am before it gets too hot.
- Each bunch is tasted first by the picker to see if they are ready.
They just pinch the bottom grape off the bunch and eat it! I think I want to become a grape picker. The farmer told me that for the first day the pickers swallow what they taste – after that you can see little rows of discarded grapes where they have been dropped. I guess it may just become too much but I would enjoy the challenge.
The fruit is then packed on the farm in a specialized packhouse. Each bunch is trimmed of underdeveloped grapes before being wrapped carefully and packed in cartons and shipped off.
From next week we will be able to buy these grapes on the roadside just outside town. We will only get the second class grapes as all the first class are snapped up by the supermarket chains.
I am grape-ful for having the opportunity to visit this amazing farm. Yum.
Considered the Food of Gods by the ancients, the little juicy ball holds more mysteries than we can think of. Classified by biologists as a `true’ berry, it has fleshy insides all the way to the tiny seed, making it a strong powerhouse of nutrition and energy. As one of nature’s richest source of anti oxidants, the grape is priceless in its nutritional value. In fact many dieticians maintain that it helps lower the incidence of two of the deadliest diseases in the urban world – coronary disease and cancer. In its juice form, the grape is known to cleanse the liver and remove excess uric acid from the body. Besides the obvious good effects, grapes are found to be extremely high in potassium, encouraging an alkaline blood balance and stimulating the heart and kidney processes. They also contain chemicals that help to detoxify and cleanse the system.
One interesting but little known fact is that grape seeds are healthier than the fruit itself. They contain powerful anti oxidants, serving to prevent premature ageing, disease and decay, by controlling free radicals.
With so much going for the little juice filled berry, it is no wonder that grapes have been a long time favorite of the human race.