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Best of the Bunch The dried fruits of Vitis vinifera.

My diary 1 Orchid expert at Armitage's Garden Centres - Orchid expert John Garner will be at the Birchencliffe centre today from 11am and tomorrow at the Shelley Centre from 11am to help you choose an orchid as a present and to help you resolve some of those strange orchid problems.

Visit www.armitages.com or call Birchencliffe on 01484 536010 or Shelley on 01484 607248 for more information.

* STUNNING: If you need to know how to look after an orchid like this, John Garner is the man to tell you Just in case you 2 have missed the list of 2011 flower shows, here's a reminder. Following a record breaking autumn show in its 99th year, make sure that you visit the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in its centenary year - April 14 to 17 - www.flowershow.org.uk or call 01423 546157. Autumn Show - September 16 to 18. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs May 24 to 28 - 0844 338 7526 - www.rhs.org.uk/flowershows. BBC Gardeners' World Live is at NEC Birmingham from June 15 to 19 - 0844 581 1340. The RHS Garden Show, Tatton Park runs from July 20 to 24 - 0844 338 7526 - www.rhs.org.uk/flower shows.

Christmas treats that are actually good for you I AM sure that we all know that the raisins, sultanas and currants were once grapes and we do seem to eat a disproportionate amount of them over the Christmas holidays in mince pies, Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings, but what is so special about them? Many areas of the world that produce good wines can also produce these dried fruits if they have very hot, dry summers and early autumns - California, Australia, Chile, Afghanistan, China, Turkey, Mexico and the list goes on.

The basics of production are large dark grapes for raisins, large white grapes for sultanas and small dark grapes for currants.

The drying processes are either in special aerated stores in hot dry areas or out in full sunshine and the low humidity plus the heat of the sun sucks out the water, concentrating the sugars into crystals - this is why sometimes you will find these fruits sticking together.

These days they are seen as one of the most nutritious snacks for children, with plenty of anti-oxidants, fibre and a quick sugar fix to give the children an energy boost without adding any weight.

They are also high in potassium which helps with keeping blood pressure low.

So, if you are eating lots of mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding over the holiday, remember that at least some of it is doing you some good.

Fruit and vegetable update ENJOY those home-grown vegetables over the Christmas period and start planning how you and your family are going to grow more of them for 2011.

Serve up a wild blackberry and home-grown apple desert to your family and friends over Christmas and look forward to a bumper harvest in 2011.

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* DRIED AND DELICIOUS: The dried fruits of Vitis vinifera will be everywhere this Christmas
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2010
Words:520
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