What are sultanas?
Sultanas are dried white or pale green seedless grapes. Usually, they are plump and sweet. They are produced from the Thompson variety of grape and because the drying process is quicker than for raisins they are a lighter colour.
Grapes for sultana production are carefully harvested when they are overripe. They are then air, sun or mechanically dried. Sometimes, whole bunches of grapes are even dried on the vine itself. They then have their stems and leaves removed to produce the clean dried fruit product we’re familiar with in the UK.
Most sultanas in the UK are produced in Turkey, Greece, Spain and Cyprus. Sometimes they also come from South Africa, China and Uzbekistan too.
Sultanas are rich sources of energy, in the form of sugar. They also contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. As a healthy fibre source, they can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and as a mild laxative can help prevent constipation.
There is a much higher level of antioxidants in sultanas than grapes. The main antioxidant is called resveratrol. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties and has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Resveratrol has also been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some viral and fungal infections.
Sultanas have good levels of a number of minerals including calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium copper, fluoride and zinc, as well as potassium, which is so important in maintaining electrolyte balance in the body in conjunction with sodium. And they’re a good source of B vitamins too, which are essential for converting our food into energy to keep us going all day.
One word of caution! Sultanas are sometimes treated with sulphur dioxide as part of the drying process. This can aggravate asthma or other allergies, so make sure you always buy natural sun-dried sultanas.
Sultanas can be eaten on their own as a snack, but they’re also delicious combined with nuts. No wonder they are such a good ingredient for energy balls.
They can really make salads, ice cream or desserts zing when sprinkled over the top. You can also add them to biscuits, chocolates, muffins, bread, puddings or cakes.
Organic sultanas absorb more liquid than non-organic ones. This means that if you’re so making Christmas cake or Christmas pudding and want the fruit to absorb the rum or brandy, organic is the way to go.
Don’t forget they can also make a welcome addition to savoury dishes. Try them in stuffings and sauces for pork, poultry or game. And, look out for them in curries and in African cuisine.
Energy ball recipes containing sultanas: