New Year Grapes - Shopping around town to purchase them

A Culinary Tradition to Bring Good Luck in the New Year!

The Twelve Grapes of Luck -- call it superstition or simply something fun to do, but eating twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is a Spanish tradition to ensure prosperity in the coming year.

Culinary traditions run deep across many cultures, and one that I’m reminded of at the end of each calendar year is the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The practice dates back to the 1800s and continues today in Spain, as well as, many Latin countries. It’s a chance to not only bid farewell to the past year, but also, try to ensure the next one will be even better. And don’t we all wish for that?!?

Each grape represents one month of the new year. For maximum effectiveness, tradition says that you must eat one grape at each strike of the clock before midnight, which will ensure luck and prosperity in the new year. Legend has it that if the first grape is sweet, the first month will be especially good, and a sour grape denotes a bad month, so hopefully there are not many of those!

Raul Coral, owner of El Chipotle Latin Market in Venice, is originally from Peru, where he says the tradition is strong. There, folks eat one grape at a time, making a wish with each. If they don’t eat them all in time, their wishes won’t come true, so it’s a mad rush to get them all in before time runs out. His sister keeps the tradition alive in Peru -- as the clock approaches the all-important hour, she’s armed with twelve grapes in a little bowl, ready to get all her wishes in.

Logistically, eating all these grapes can be challenging, and the type of grapes you have access to will determine your success in eating them within twelve rings of the bell. You may have difficulty if they’re full of seeds, they’re large, or have tough skins, and you may not even have time to chew them, since the next strike of the bell comes quickly! Some resort to squeezing all twelve in their mouths at one time so they meet the twelve-second rule, but that’s not the solution since doing so can apparently bring ‘bad luck’ according to tradition. So it seems that to ensure good luck is achieved, there are four important factors: 1) buy small, tender grapes (color doesn’t matter), 2) be sure they’re seedless, 3) have your wishes ready, and 4) focus on the clock and ignore anything else going on around you!

When purchasing fresh grapes for this special occasion, be sure to pick the ones that are plump, firm, have smooth, unbroken skin and are firmly attached to their stems. Grapes are available in markets year-round, but their peak season is July to December. In the Sarasota area, you can easily find some at the Sarasota Farmers Market, the Englewood Farmers Market, North Port Farmers Market, and Detweiler’s Farm Market. And if all else fails, you might even be able to find

canned grapes at one of our other local Hispanic markets, such as Latin Brothers Market (1100 N. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota) or La Primavera Supermarket (901 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota) where you may even hear more about this historic tradition.

Here are some fun ways to enjoy your twelve lucky grapes:

  • Freeze them! Rinse grapes then place flat on a baking tray for at least one hour. Enjoy them whole, or pop them in a glass of sparkling wine.
  • Roast them! Heat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange grapes in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with canola oil, kosher salt and ground pepper (maybe even some fresh rosemary sprigs for extra flair). Roast 25-30 minutes, until the grapes are slightly blistered and exuding some juice but are still soft inside. They’re delicious served over vanilla ice cream, topping goat cheese or ricotta on a crostini, or tossed into a fresh salad.
  • Skewer grapes on bamboo or metal skewers so they can be easily pulled off for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
  • Marinate green grapes in white wine and a little sugar for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Drain the liquid then roll the grapes in fine sugar and freeze for a few hours. They make a tasty snack all by themselves.

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Nicole Coudal is a writer and home-chef based in southwest Florida, where she fishes and cooks using local ingredients. When not on the water, she visits farms, farmer’s markets, and other food-related venues to highlight what’s in-season and to create tasty recipes. Read more at www.MyDeliciousBlog.com.

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Apr 18, 2017
Photo credit: Nicole Coudal
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