The observation was made long ago by Niemeyer that persons who consume two or three pounds of grapes daily grew fat, and Pliny stated that foxes living on the wine hills andaccording to their habitstealing the grapes grew fat very rapidly. This does not surprise us, when we consider that grapes contain a considerable quantity of sugar, 14 to 18 and even up to 20 per cent. When therefore about 2 pounds of grapes are eaten daily, as much as 300 grams of sugar are absorbed, and, when in addition meat and other nourishing foods are taken, a person can very easily gain in weight. If, however, he wished to live principally or exclusively upon grapes, he would be badly off, since they contain but little albumin.
Grape- and fruit- sugar is found in considerable quantities in ripe grapes, as in other fruits; in the unripe fruit there is more fruit-sugar. The grapes of the South, as in Spain (Andalusia) and Portugal, contain much sugar, and from them a very alcoholic wine can be therefore made. Grapes, owing to their high sugar content and the tartaric acid and tannin contained in them, their aroma, etc., are especially adapted for the manufacture of wine. Other fruits, like apples and pears, also contain considerable sugar ; but as they likewise contain much malic acid, the wine obtained from them cannot be compared with that made of grapes. Considerable amounts of nutrient salts are also present in grapes. As shown in the analysis previously given, they are rich in the tartrates of potassium and calcium, as well as in the phosphates and sulphates of these metals.
In consequence of the great sugar content, the tartaric acid, and the salts, grapes have a laxative action, and they also act favorably upon the diuresis. It is therefore a good habit to eat a certain quantity of good ripe grapes daily after the midday and evening meal during the grape season, in order that they may act upon the bowels. The decided sugar content may also have a favorable action upon intestinal putrefaction. In order that grapes be healthful, they should be perfectly ripe and of unquestionable origin. Those having a fine skin, much juice, and small seeds are greatly preferred. The Hungarian grapes are of this kind. The Italian grapes often have very thick skins, large seeds and very little juice; the Spanish grapes also have very thick skins, but in Valencia I ate a red variety of a long, oval shape which had a very sweet taste. Generally speaking, these southern varieties are not so juicy, but are sweeter,a peculiarity due no doubt to the long-continued action and heat of the sun’s rays.
In Austria the Meran (Tyrol), Baden, and Vöslau varieties are the best; in Germany the Rhein region, Baden, Wurtemberg, and Mayence are celebrated for their grapes. Before grapes are eaten they should be washed in water in order to remove any copper sulphate which may have been sprinkled on them. The skins and seeds must not be swallowed, as they are not beneficial for the digestion. A few seeds would do no harm; they would, on the contrary, have a rather favorable massage-like action upon a sluggish intestine. The large seeds o,f some kinds of grapes would, however; be very bad for children. The little daughter of a family from Kirn, near Kreuznach, who were my patients at Carlsbad, ate, during the month of October, some hothouse grapes of which she swallowed the seeds; several months later she had colic every day and became much run down, until one day after having taken a very energetic purgative these seeds were expelled. During all these months the child had positively not eaten any grapes. Grape-lovers can obtain them. in winter, in the hot-house varieties which are exported in large quantities from Belgium. Those most industrious and commercial peoplethe Belgianshave since several centuries, in Oulart, near Brussels, as also in Drooge Bosch and other places, an enormous number of greenhouses extending over kilometers and kilometers of ground, and these Belgian vines produce most excellent grapes. The best varieties are, first, the Frankenthaler, which have a very fine skin and not very large seeds and have a delicious taste. They contain a great deal of juice. Then come the Colman grapes; for my taste I prefer the latter because they are more fleshy and have a very pleasant taste; the skin is also quite thin. The black, or Alicante, grapes, which have a thick skin, are probably the least fine; they also have considerable juice, but it is not sweet,—in fact, quite sour. The Colman variety is very meaty, but has less juice. The Frankenthaler are the most expensive and the Alicante the cheapest. It is really very inexpensive to eat grapes in Belgium at times when in other countries they are not to be had, in November and December. The medium quality cost from 80 centimes to 1 franc (18 to 20 cents) and the best quality from 1.50 to 2 francs (30 to 40 cents) per pound. The grapes of the Belgian vines are of a much finer quality and aroma when they have been transplanted into Hungarian soil, as I have seen in the results obtained by the Belgian-Hungarian colony at Vàcz, near Budapest.