The drying of grapes into raisins has been practiced since ancient times. Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament. Murals from prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that era. Raisins were also highly prized by the ancient Romans, who adorned their places of worships with them and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition, raisins were oftentimes an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. From ancient Rome, the practice of drying grapes into raisins subsequently spread throughout the world.
Currently, the largest commercial producer of raisins is California in a region known as the San Joaquin valley where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century. The tale told of their introduction and subsequent popularity in California and the United States involves one enterprising grape grower who creatively responded to the forces of Nature. In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America. In addition to California, Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are among the leading commercial producers of raisins.