This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Grapes are sometimes employed systematically as a means of cure for continued diarrhoea: the grape sugar is partly absorbed into the system unchanged, and whilst rich in silicates, phosphates, tartrates, and pectin. The skins afford some aromatic ethereal oils, and the stones a good deal of tannin; the grape sugar becomes partly converted into lactic acid. In the Song of Solomon occurs the pleasant passage, "the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away".
With respect to table scraps for the poor (Epicure, 1898), "a little ingenuity may often render these tempting, and appetising. Half a bunch of grapes, and a couple of spoonfuls of jelly (lemon, or wine) left from dinner, do not by themselves look particularly attractive, one has to admit; but just melt the jelly, and set the grapes therein, using a small pudding basin, or brawn basin, as a mould, and see how glad some sick child will be of the morsel, though your servants would probably disdain to touch it. Verily the poor may easily be fed with the crumbs which fall from rich men's tables, did the rich only know how to utilize such crumbs. There are stalls at some of the Paris markets where may be seen portions of foods laid out, the relics of dainty dinners from restaurants, and large households: a morsel of fish, a simple cutlet, a spoonful of bavaroise, all disposed neatly together as one of such portions, to be sold for a few sous, under the name of an ' arlequin.' These scraps in England go to help fill the hog-tub, or into the dust-hole, because no one has taken the trouble to teach the English cook how she should put away her ' beaux-restes' tidily".
In countries where the fruit can be successfully dried certain kinds of grapes are converted into raisins, always specially associated with Christmas time. To quote again the Song of Solomon, when the Bride feeling faint cries out, "Stay me with 'ashishah,' comfort me with apples," the genuine sense of this Hebrew word is "raisin-cakes," as long familiar to scholars; and now the revised version pats it, "Stay ye me with raisins, comfort me with apples".
Muscatels are known as "raisins of the sun," because left upon the tree to dry in the sunshine before being gathered. Grapes can be better cured and dried, because of local conditions, in certain parts of Spain than elsewhere, especially near Malaga. The Valentia, or pudding raisins, are likewise imported from Spain. Sultanas, which are destitute of stones, or seeds, are received from Smyrna. "Surpassing even the banana in nutritive value (Dr. Hutchison) is the group of dried fruits which includes the raisin, and the date." Raisin-tea is found to be of the same proteid value as milk, and much more easily digested, therefore of superior use in many cases of gastric disease where milk or soups (vegetable or animal) must be disallowed. "Take half a pound of good raisins, and wash them well in cold water. Cut them up roughly to free the pulp in cooking, and put them into a stewing jar with one quart of cold water. Cook for from three to four hours, when the liquid will be reduced to one pint. Press all but the insoluble skins, and stones, through a fine scalded sieve, and use the tea either hot, or cold; if too sweet a little lemon juice may be added." But the tea is scarcely to be advised for meat eaters, as its sweetness might induce biliousness.
For persons who suffer from coldness of the feet, and hands, it is very warming and cherishing. Also stewed sultana raisins are restorative when fatigue of body and mind are felt, being at the same time mildly laxative. Wash and pick one pound of sultanas, soak them all night in cold water; next morning drain off the water, and put the raisins into a pan, or basin, and barely cover them with water, add a little grated lemon peel, put a plate over the top, and stew them in the oven till quite tender, and soft. Some of these, hot or cold, with a slice of whole-meal bread, or brown bread, will make a very sustaining repast. Dried raisins contain 2 1/2 per cent of proteid substance, 74 1/2 of heat-forming parts (carbohydrates), 4 of salts, and 19 of water. The German doctors used to keep their patients whilst under the grape cure almost entirely without other food, but now some suitable light nourishment is also allowed, at regular times, and even a moderate quantity of Bordeaux wine. The sap of the vine is used commonly in Italy for strengthening, and improving the hair, increasing and renewing its growth even when it has taken to fall out considerably.
In the Spring when the vines are pruned, a fluid percolates out from the cut boughs, which the peasants are careful to collect in little tin pots, some time being needed to gather the juice as it oozes out by drops. When sufficient has been obtained it is strained through muslin, though some of the fibrous substance must be also kept in hand, as it helps to do good. Practically the same process may be adopted in this country by persons who possess vineries. The liquid will keep sweet, and useful for six or eight months, and even then it only acquires a sharp odour which is not unwholesome. One sort of grape, the Bourdelas, or Vergus, being intensely sour when green is never allowed to ripen, but its large berries are made to yield their acid liquor for use instead of vinegar, or lemon juice, in drinks, medicines, and sauces. The human stomach will tolerate acids which are comparatively strong, even of a mineral sort, and these not presently becoming alkaline as the vegetable acids do by chemical change.
Drs. Gould and Pyle record a case (Curiosities of Medicine, 1901) of "a bootmaker who constantly took half an ounce of strong sulphuric acid (oil of vitriol) in a tumbler of water, saying that it relieved his dyspepsia, and kept his bowels open "; of course this was a most exceptional immunity, and a strange power of resistance.