The Sweet Delight of Kishmish

There's something delightfully pervasive about kishmish, as raisins are known in much of the world, those bite-sized morsels of sweetness that add zing to dishes in cuisines everywhere. Not only are they full of flavor, but the more you read about them, the more you see how full they are of interesting details and nutritional advantage. I thought it might be fun to spend some time giving a little of the background on kishmish -- where does it come from, exactly? how is it made? -- look at what all the nutrition fuss is about, and finish up with some fun facts about everyone's favorite raisin third (after the one on top of the ice cream, and the ones at the bank...)!

What Is Kishmish?

Kishmish is Hindi and Urdu for raisins, or dried grapes, which have been enjoyed as a snack and food ingredient for at least 2000 years. The evocative name conjures the image of golden or dark brown refreshments with chewy texture and a taste whose sweetness is intensified by the drying process itself.

The Making of Kishmish

Raisins are made by dehydrating fresh grapes in the sun or in a dry atmosphere, such as in ovens. The most traditional method for making raisins is sun-drying, where grapes are placed in vineyards and drenched with sunlight for a couple of weeks until the dehydration process is complete. During this time, the natural sugars of the grapes caramelize and the resulting raisins are juicy and full of the concentrated taste we know so well. Of course, like so much of the world food industry, more and more raisins are made through artificial means these days, including those nice plump Californian raisins we see in the supermarket, which 16th century mariners visiting the Persian Empire used to call "ashi-shmish" -- Iranian dialect for "dried, sweet grapes". But whether they are made in the sun or in big industrial microwaves, it is the intense sweetness of a raisin that gives away the secret of its indulgent birth.

Nutritional Profile

Kishmish might taste like wonderful little sugary tidbits, but they have plenty of essential nutrients for you too. They are a calorie-rich food -- what? they taste too good to be totally guilt-free! -- but they are a great source of quick energy because of all the sugar they have crammed into their tiny dimensions. And just as important, each one of those sweet raisins is loaded with dietary fiber, which keeps your digestion running smooth -- not to mention the iron inside of them, essential for your red blood cells to keep bringing that oxygen in, and not least for preventing a classic raisin-eater's disease, iron-deficiency anemia. And to top off the goodies, kishmish are rich in potassium -- a mineral that helps to keep body fluids in balance, and helps to maintain a healthy level of blood pressure. What can I say? -- it's better by far than the stuff they tell you about in the pharmacy sections of the supermarkets...

Health Benefits of Kishmish

A member of the Your Guide to the Middle East network of sites (and a compendium of everything you could possibly want to know about Iran and Persian culture), "Foods of Iran: Raisins" states that raisins are a natural digestive, and continuously eating a few raisins every day can help to cure acidosis, which it describes as hyper-acidity of the stomach, and is the usual place to get started when looking for other gastric problems such as indigestion and the ulcers that might come with it. It goes before the eyes to add that the phenolic compounds in raisins also help to prevent tooth decay, by reducing the growth of two species of oral bacteria in your mouth, wich can really multiply their numbers when the sugar and acids from other sources get together in there. The same raisin fiber has an effect the growth of bad cholesterol in your veins as well, so no wonder the Iranian people have known these things as long as anyone has; they have always eaten kishmish as a part of their healthy food that's so good for you!

It's well noted that kishmish benefits in the form of nutrition. These dried grapes are naturally high in antioxidants such as phenols and polyphenols which are a great combatant to oxidative stress and may reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases. Raisins are also a key supplier of calcium. This mineral is hugely important for bone strength and health. Plus by containing glucose and plenty of carbohydrates, raisins provide quick energy in a convenient snack form.

Let's have a closer look at all that kishmish benefits.

Benefits of Raisins

  1. Antioxidant Powers

Raisins are high in antioxidants such as phenols and polyphenols. These are key in combating oxidative stress, reducing the likelihood of chronic diseases and aiding in the fight of harmful free radicals”.

  1. Bone Health

One of the many benefits of raisins is the calcium they contain. Calcium is vital for the growth and strength of bones and can help stave off osteoporosis later in your bones future”.

  1. Heart Health

One of the benefits of potassium is its ability to contribute to cardiovascular health. Raisins do have potassium, and can work to combat the effects of sodium in the body, reducing hypertension”.

Culinary Uses

Raisins can obviously be enjoyed raw as a quick snack, but they also lend themselves to a variety of dishes. Some of the more common methods of consumption are in the forms of:

  1. Baking. Raisins are a staple in baked goods of all sorts whether it be cookies, bread, or muffins.
  2. Cooking. In cooking raisins can lend a sweeter flavor to a variety of dishes such as pilafs, stuffing, and tagines.
  3. Toppings. Their versatility means that they can easily be sprinkled onto oatmeal, cereals, and salads to give them a touch of sweetness. This makes them an easy item to keep in your house, since they can be easily incorporated into most daily meals or snacks.

Selection and Storage

When selecting raisins, be sure to choose ones that are plump and free from excessive wrinkles. They should be of a rich color and not stuck together. Raisins should be stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

Some Fun Facts about Kishmish

– A Natural Sweetener: Raisins were used to sweeten dishes in medieval times before sugar was widely available.

– Historic Staple: They were thought to be consumed by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt and have been found in a tomb there.

– Just Plain Big: The largest raisin on record ever made weighed in at 39 kg (86 lb) and was made in Armenia in 2009.


Kishmish may be small, but they are regarded as large in nutrition, history, and versatility. Whether in a delicious oatmeal raisin cookie or in a healthy on the go snack, kishmish provides a unique ability to combine health and taste that is second to none. They have been an essential and celebrated food that has withstood a long history combined with some societal changes, and will continue to be on this earth for many generations of humans to enjoy.”

So add kishmish to your diet and enjoy the sweet, healthful benefits these lovely little dried grapes have to offer. From boosting your energy to rounding out a savory dish with a touch of sweetness, they’re quite a culinary gift to savor.

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