No need to be raisin a fuss today, especially if you like chocolate and shriveled-up dry fruit. March 24 is National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day!
Raisins were an accidental discovery. People had been eating grapes for centuries, but sometime around 1500 B.C. a lazy farmhand in the Middle East left grapes to dry on the vine too long, and they shriveled up. Turns out this was a good thing, as they discovered the dried grapes were sweet, delicious, and easy to store. Raisin comes from the Latin word racemus, meaning “a bunch of grapes.” Phoenicians and Armenians traded raisins with the Romans and Greeks, who were so enamored of the fruit they decorated places of worship with raisins, and handed them out as prizes in sporting contests. Gotta admit, they’re a lot tastier than gold medals given in the Olympics! Vineyards were developed in Spain and Greece, and the Crusaders introduced them to Europe in the 11th century. They were believed to have great medicinal properties and soon became so popular that two jars of raisins could be traded for a slave in ancient Rome! In America, the San Joaquin Valley became known as “raisin valley” with the introduction of the Thompson seedless grape, and is the world’s largest producer of raisins today.
Chocolate covered raisins were first introduced around 1927, when the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company in Philadelphia rolled out Raisenets. They quickly became a popular treat with moviegoers, who liked the contrast between the sweet and creamy chocolate covered raisins and hot, salty popcorn. To this day they are frequently sold in concession stands, but cost a lot more than the nickel a box proprietors charged back in the 1930s.
Given their history, Tara and I decided to celebrate chocolate covered raisins by (ahem) sneaking some into the movies. (Don’t worry, we paid for the popcorn). Eaten together, they were pretty tasty!
- Fermenting raisins (thegrumpygerman.wordpress.com)
- Inca Berries, Golden Berries, whatever they are called, I LOVE THEM! (indulgencerecreated.com)