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General Discussion 1

Golden raisins (sultanas) from Asian markets in the U.S. - quality decline?

greygarious | Aug 19, 201304:58 PM

For many years I have preferred the sultanas in Asian markets (Swad brand and others) to American brands. They are smaller, which I find more desirable for baking, yet moist and intensely-flavored. Several months ago, not in my immediate area, I noticed an Indian market so stopped in. I asked where to find ghee and raisins. While I was looking at ghee brands and sizes, the clerk brought me a 5# bag of sultanas, saying that was all they had. Upon arriving home, I immediately divvied them into several glass jars and the bag went out with the trash the next day.
Later that week when I tried them, they had an off-taste and odd smell that I could not place at first. Then I realized: insecticide. It was not worth the fuel cost to return them, even if I'd had the bag, so I tossed them.

Some time passed and I got a smaller bag at my usual Asian market. Again, into glass jars at home. They aren't BAD, but they are a bit on the dry side and taste a little stale, if that's possible for a dried fruit. No off smell. I think the brand is Swad too, but can't swear to it.

At first I assumed the market that sold the first bad had been fumigating and that the chemicals had permeated the bag, which might have been on the shelf a very long time. Last weekend I heard a piece on the radio about a brouhaha among raisin growers in California. They have an alliance that functions as a cartel to keep prices stable. Last year or two, growing conditions have been exceptional, and there is a glut. Hence, growers agreed to hold back 40% of their supply. A naysayer or two want to sell all of theirs so there's a lawsuit. Firstly, I had no idea that raisin farming was a distinct thing - I assumed grape growers' crops were used for winemaking, juicing, fresh produce, jelly, and raisins depending on variety but that a grower could have more than one use for his crops assuming he raised the correct varieties. But then I wondered if my recent raisin troubles were due not to individual stores but to warehousing of an older crop. I have no idea where Swad or other Asian market raisin brands are grown.

Has anyone else noticed a problem with golden raisins?

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