Fruits of Our Labor
Students discover how fresh fruits can be dried and preserved by participating in an activity where they make raisins by drying grapes. Grades K-2
- Kitchen towel
- Cookie sheet
processing: in agriculture, the alteration or modification, for the purpose of storage, transport, or sale, of an agricultural product
production: the action of making, manufacturing, or growing from components or raw materials; in agriculture, this is the process of growing seed to corn or raising calf to cow often referred to as agricultural production or food production
Did You Know?
- Oftentimes raisins are dried right in the fields where the grapes were grown.
- Processed tomatoes are picked when ripe and canned within a few hours. Fresh tomatoes typically are picked while they are still green because more time passes before they reach the grocery store.
- Many foods can be dried, including meat. The process of drying meat dates back many thousands of years.
Background Agricultural Connections
Farmers around the world grow the food we enjoy every day. There are three basic steps to get food from the farm to the dinner table:
- Production: involves growing the food on a farm.
- Processing: is what happens to the food once it is ready to be picked. This could involve packaging, canning, freezing, or drying it. In this lesson, grapes are being washed and dried to make raisins.
- Transportation: involves taking the food to the store.
- To introduce the lesson, help students identify how their diet would change if only fresh foods were available. Help illustrate by explaining that fresh foods are like those found in the produce section of the grocery store. What would happen if we could only shop in this one portion of the grocery store? (Our diets would be limited)
- Explain that there are methods that are used to preserve food to be eaten at a later date. Illustrate by pointing out the canned food aisle as well as the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. Explain that these are just two methods of preserving food for a later date.
Explore and Explain
- Ask students if they've ever eaten strawberries in January or peppers in November. Explain that because of food processing, foods that used to be out of season during much of the year are now available and affordable all year long.
- Explain that in much of the United States, tomatoes are harvested only in the summer. However tomatoes are sold year-round.
- Ask students: If tomatoes grow in the summer months, how are we able to buy them year-round at the grocery store? For the rest of the year, they are grown in greenhouses so that the climate (weather) is controlled or they are grown in warmer climates and shipped to the United States.
- Point out that another way to enjoy tomatoes year-round is by eating products made from processed tomatoes.
- Ask students: What are some products that are made using processed tomatoes? Likely answers include pizza sauce, pasta sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, salsa, ketchup, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato soup, tomato juice, etc.
- Grapes are another example of a food that has several products made from it. Ask students: What are some foods that are made from grapes? Raisins, grape juice, vinegar, jam, jellies, and marmalade are some examples.
- Tell the class that they are going to do an activity focusing on how raisins are made using a type of food processing called dehydration or drying. Ask students: How do you think raisins are made from grapes? By drying the grapes. What are the pros and cons of buying raisins versus fresh grapes? Raisins have a longer shelf life and are readily available year round. Grapes may be more expensive during the off season and go bad after a few days. The taste and texture of each is different.
Activity: Make raisins
Follow the steps below to make your own raisins:
- Wash the grapes and spread them onto the cookie sheet. Make sure the grapes are not touching one another.
- Find a sunny spot outdoors where you can place your grapes to dehydrate. (For example, place them on a table in a courtyard and label them so no one will disturb them.) Make sure they are safe from animals. Put the towel over the grapes to protect them from pests.
- Turn the grapes from side to side twice a day to keep them from sticking.
- In 3-7 days, the grapes will change into raisins.
Note: Environmental factors such as direct sunlight, the type of surface under the grapes, and humidity can affect how long the process will take. For areas that experience high humidity levels, you may wish to dry your grapes in a dehydrator or oven. Set your oven for 160° F and leave the grapes to dry for up to 7 hours. Check the progress each hour and turn the grapes frequently to avoid sticking.
Have students think about a time they went to the grocery store with their family. What are some healthy food choices that were available in single-serving or ready-to-eat containers? Some may be in their lunch bag today! Yogurt, frozen vegetables, individual bottles of orange juice or milk, canned soup, cut apples with caramel dip, cheese sticks, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, small packages of sunflower seeds, etc. All of these foods are processed. Other ways that foods are prepared include freezing, canning, or drying right after they are picked.
View the video Michigan Grapes: From Our Family to Yours to learn about the production, harvesting, and processing of Concord juice grapes.
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Any food that's bought in a sealed package (like apples or carrots) is called a processed food. A processed food is any food that is changed from its natural "raw" state.
- Today many healthful choices are available in convenient packages at grocery stores. In fact, purchasing foods that are already cleaned and cut means they can be eaten right away or easily be packed in a student’s lunch box.
- Eating processed foods like those that are dried, canned, bottled or frozen allows us to have a wider variety of food to eat.
Text and design by The Education Center, LLC. The development of this curriculum is made possible, in part, by a grant from Farm Credit.
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