Dear Matthew Alice: Munching on one of my favorite snacks, raisins, I noticed a nutritional difference between white seedless raisins and the regular ones. The white seedless raisins have 0.5gfat, 20mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, and 5g fiber. The regular raisins have no fat, lOmg sodium, 33g carbohydrates, and 2g fiber. Both have equal amounts of protein and iron. This is based on equal servings of each. Why is this? — Healthy Eater, faxland
I’m mighty glad you asked, Healthy. Otherwise it likely would have been months before I learned that another fine American institution, the Raisin Hot Line, is defunct. Or at any rate, it’s feeling kinda woozy. In fact, the state’s entire dried-fruit brain trust is out of biz for the moment. Best I can tell, it all started as a shouting match over the doo-wopping California Raisins, and before they were finished, the state agriculture department had to step in and bust it up before there were mayhem and looting. The dried-grape guys are now regrouping and trying to figure what to do with 15 mil left in the treasury. In the meantime, the singing cartoon fruit characters are off TV, sequestered in some Fresno motel until a cease-fire is declared. I’m not making this up. It’s true. It was in all the papers. Well, almost all. And, well, most of it is true.
But the raisin rajahs did take time out from deliberations to say that, nutritionally, a raisin is a raisin is, basically, a raisin, no matter what color it is. Any differences are small and come from variations in growing locations, weather patterns, grape variety, or laboratory test situations. Most raisin processors will test their products once and print those nutritional values on their packages forever more. Apparently there is a single, “average” statement of nutritional content for all types of raisins, which the marketing board has issued, but in the confusion the day I called, nobody could find it. For the most part, dark and golden raisins begin their brief, wrinkly lives as the same type of grape. The golden ones are gassed with sulfur dioxide before they’re dried to keep them from oxidizing into the dark form and to reduce microbe growth. The raisin folks swear that sulfites have no effect on nutritional content.