Whether you need a convenient snack or added sweetness for baking, raisins provide a wealth of benefits. The many varieties of raisins are full of antioxidants and boron, a mineral that promotes healthy bone development. Raisins have a long shelf life, and can even be plumped if dry-out occurs. Raisins come in different kinds -- perhaps your favourite breakfast cereal has a couple of different kinds. Each kind of raisin has distinguishing characteristics.
According to the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey, seedless dark brown raisins are the most common raisin on the U.S. market, and are grown from the Thompson green grapes. The raisin changes from green to dark brown during the natural drying process, which is produced through sun drying without chemicals. Thompson raisins are useful for baking, cooking and snacking.
Sultana raisins are also dried from green Thompson grapes, but are produced through a different drying method. Prior to drying, the grapes are dipped in a treatment of potassium carbonate, water and olive oil, which increases the drying rate. As the Thompson raisin spends more time under the sun, sultana raisins are lighter in colour. The raisins can also be treated with bleach to lighten the colour as well. You can eat sultanas raw or use them in for baking or cooking.
Golden raisins are also made from the green Thompson grapes, but have been treated with sulphur dioxide to prevent the grape from changing colour during the drying process. These grapes are dried with artificial heat and for a short period of time, which creates a plump and sweet result. Organic golden raisins are rare, but when found are darker in colour. Although used for baking and cooking, you can eat golden raisins raw as well.
Currants, not to be confused with bush-grown berries, are produced from the Black Corinth grape and are one-fifth the size of a standard raisin. Currants are very dark in colour, and have an intense tart flavour. Their seeds are generally removed before the drying process, unlike in other raisins. Currants are primarily used in baking due to their size.
Muscatel raisins are larger than the common raisin and also darker in colour. Produced from the Alexandria grape, Muscats are very sweet in flavour. Often the seeds have been removed prior to the drying process, but in the U.S. the process is less common. Muscatels are primarily used in baking and are available during the autumn and winter seasons.
Flame Seedless Raisins
Flame raisins are slightly larger than standard raisins and are a deep red colour. These raisins are primarily used in baking, and have a strong, sweet flavour. Because of their flavour, you can enjoy them as a snack.