The itchy grape punishment

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I love that this blog earns me food gifts from friends and family especially since most of them are usually fruits, vegetables, snacks and other Haitian goodies that marked my childhood but that somehow disappeared from my life and diet through the years.

The above-pictured grapes are among those. When my aunt asked me if I had ever had wild grapes a few days ago, I was clueless about the fruit she was referring to. Yet, as soon as I caught sight of them in that plastic bag I smiled at the memories that came flooding back.

Right here and there, I was among my peers in elementary school and high school in that uniform I wore non-stop for 13 years. I recalled our animated conversations about the two grape bowers under which we often spent detention and which fruits we were not allowed to sample let alone touch.

In a way, those grapes were the forbidden fruit of that playground. Though many of us spent hours under their shade waiting for detention to be over, very few of us were lucky enough to be left alone long enough to be able to reach for some fruits without getting caught. Only the most mischievous among us actually managed to handpick them and hide them in their pockets, but not without an unpleasant surprise.

Those wild grapes, as we call them here, almost always led to an itchy reaction. Rumor on the playground had it that the nuns sprayed the fruits nightly with a substance meant to make them tingle our mouths and itch our palates so as to keep us from eating them. Their goal? Keep as many fruits to themselves so as to make some red wine. At least that was the story we convincingly told each other.

I believe it is that last agreed upon rumor that encouraged us to break the rules and pick bunches of grapes from the vines whenever we could even if it came at a cost. Itchy mouth or not, we simply had something to prove. We could successfully handpick grapes without being caught and bring our self-created prize to our schoolmates who begged for some with a hint of jealousy while reducing the wine production.

If only we had known then what I now know. This weekend, after all those years loving and hating those grapes, I finally learned the secret to eating them without any tingling. Back then, since we were literally stealing, we had no time to wash or rinse the fruits before biting into them. We simply resorted to wiping them with our hands. And that is where we went wrong.

Those tiny round-shaped grapes, which are actually quite sweet, must be thoroughly washed before being eaten. Apparently, their itchiness comes from all the pollen and dust that covers them while on the tree. It only goes away when they are dipped in water.

I was surprised to learn that the solution was that simple and now I kind of wish someone would have told me sooner, you know like 10 to 15 years ago. I would have eaten way more grapes!

I can’t believe I just gave out that secret though. I however take comfort in knowing that new generations will now know the secret to eating those fruits without that itchy sensation.

Sorry Sisters, I think I just ruined the self-inflicted itchy wild grape punishment you used on us by making us stand under those vines.

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