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In Season: Grapes

In Season: Grapes

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Grapes are great with any fall meal

Savor juicy and flavorful grapes this season.

Fall is a special time for grapes. The domestic season is long, with fruit harvesting from May through October, but by September it’s time for peak production. This means grape lovers are in quality and variety heaven.

Part of what makes fall special for grapes is field conditions. Grapes love warm weather, and the fruit we are harvesting now has had the whole of summer hanging on the vine. This translates into high sugar content and wonderfully complex flavors. This is also the time we see an explosion of choices in grape varieties, as the standard red, green, and black seedless table grapes are joined by a flood of seeded varieties like Concord, Red Globe, and black Ribier. Even wine grape varieties are harvested and sold fresh for a brief period in September.

Selecting grapes is largely about stem condition. When harvested, stems are bright green and full. As the fruit ages the stems start to turn brown and dry out. You should look for fruit with healthy stems and with no broken leaky grapes. Often in the fall, green varieties will start to turn yellow — this condition is called "ambering" and is very desirable as it indicates a very high concentration of sugars. It’s best to remove grapes from the bag or container when you get them home — I generally wash mine and cut the larger bunches into snack-sized ones with kitchen shears and place them in a bowl in the fridge for snacking. Grapes will keep this way for a week at least.

Grapes are great with any meal, but are best as a fall snack — try some wonderful seasonal varieties today.

James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market

Grapes Are One of the Best Things About Fall

I say this with mixed emotions because I know that when I see them at the farmer’s market, it signals the end of the run for all those luscious summer berries and stone fruits. On the other hand, Concords!

Roast Your Grapes

Obviously, you can buy grapes and grape products any time of year, and in case you’re wondering, wine is the most popular form of grape consumption, according to the USDA and my own unscientific observations of friends and family.

But the fresh grapes now rolling in, from those candy-like Concords to juicy Jupiters, are worth exploring and getting genuinely excited about. After a fruitful chat with Michigan fruit farmer Mick Klug and digging into the Internet’s vast resources (FYI, the National Grape Registry is an actual thing), I’m happy to present the following field guide.

Beyond their color—green, red, or black—and whether or not they have seeds, grapes can be categorized according to how you eat or drink them, says Klug, whose family farm in St. Joseph, Michigan, has been in operation since 1945.

Table grapes are large, firm, thin-skinned, and often seedless. These are the ideal eating grapes, the ones we cook with and tuck into lunch boxes. They become raisins in their next life.

Juice grapes play an obvious role in juice, but they're also used for jelly, jam—and sometimes adult juice. You can eat them, too, though you’ll probably want to spit out the tough skins, Klug says. Growers call juice grapes “slip skins” for the way the skins slip easily off the flesh. The most famous is the Concord grape, which is native to American soil, specifically Concord, Massachusetts. (Most commercially grown grapes belong to a species with European origins.)

Wine grapes are grown to make—what else?—wine. They’re full of sugar, which is key to the fermentation process. But they’re small, and with their thick skins and big, bothersome seeds, these aren’t the type to eat out of hand.

Sheet-Pan Cumin Chicken Thighs with Squash, Fennel, and Grapes

California is grape country, the source of the majority of the grapes we consume, whether fresh, dried, or as wine. Its crop keeps supermarket bins stocked with fresh grapes from May to January. The other main commercial grape-growing regions are in Washington, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Concord grapes have a shorter season, starting in August in Washington, the top-producing state, and running until the first hard frost hits, Klug says.

New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are also big Concord growers. While most of what’s grown ends up processed, now is the time to find fresh Concord and Concord-type grapes at farmer’s markets in these areas.

Gorgonzola and Grape Pizza

In September alone, some 60 varieties of table grapes are typically harvested and put in rotation at the retail level, according to the California Table Grape Commissions. Here are some standouts for eating and cooking.

At the grocery store:Thompson Seedless. The go-to variety for making raisins. Sweet, green, and fairly big. Flame Seedless. Red, round, and crunchy, a popular eating grape. Widely available from May to October. Crimson Seedless. A common later-season variety, its red berries are cylindrical, not round. Red Globes. Large and seeded, in season July to January. Autumn Royal. A later-season seedless variety with big, black, oval berries.

At the farmer’s market (through mid-October or November, depending on where you live):Canadice. Small, seedless, light-red berries with a mild, sweet tang. Jupiter. Large, seedless, purple berries with honey-like sweetness. Niagara. The green, seedless variety most often used for white grape juice. Thomcord. A Thompson-Concord cross. Bonus: no seeds. Concord. Tender, seeded, and as grape-y tasting as a grape can be.

Radicchio Salad with Pickled Grapes and Goat Cheese

Grapes should be plump, not shriveled, with consistent color throughout. Look at the stems, too. They should green and pliable.

Grapes from the farmer’s market, generally picked with a day or two, tend to be softer than supermarket varieties, which are hardy and hold up during shipping.

“As long as the stems are green and, when you pick them up, they don’t rattle completely off the bunch, they should be good,” Klug says.

Many varieties develop a whitish coating, called bloom, on the skin. It’s totally natural and helps prevent moisture loss and decay, according to the table grape commission.

Concord Grape Cornmeal Cake

Grapes should be refrigerated. They’ll keep well for a week to 10 days. Klug says the key is to keep them dry and not suffocate them in the fridge. Put them either in a perforated bag or an open bowl or container so air can circulate.

Grapes also freeze well. Rinse, dry, and quick-freeze them first on a baking sheet, then pile them into plastic freezer bags. That way, they won’t freeze in one big clump. You can cook or bake with frozen grapes, but really, if you haven't snacked on them straight from the freezer, you should. That I can say without a doubt.

Concord Grapes

Tadao Yamamoto / Getty Images

Concord grapes are often used for juice and jelly, but they make great table grapes, too. They are deep purple—almost black—and will stain anything they can, so consider yourself warned! Concord grapes are a deep blue-black color, large, and extremely sweet.

Concords are native to North America and part of a group of grapes known as "slip skin" grapes. The skin slips easily off the flesh, yet the flesh and seed cling tightly to one another.

Patience Is Key: Cooking with Concord Grapes

I question my sanity every year I set out to make my first batch of Concord Grape Muffins for the season. It takes a level of patience to stand at the counter and remove the tiny seeds from each grape with the tip of a paring knife. By time the 8 ounces of grapes I need for a dozen of muffins are ready — after 15 to 20 minutes — I’ve either hit a state of nirvana and can imagine myself seeding a few more pounds, or I swear I’m never doing something so silly again.

Then the muffins come out of the oven, bursting with fragrant pockets of Concord grape jelly. That’s exactly what happens to the grapes as they bake. Once I realize that making these muffins is really two recipes in one — homemade muffins and homemade grape jelly — the effort it takes to prep the grapes is well worth the reward. It also saves me from having to spread jelly on a muffin, and that extra 60 seconds means I’m one minute closer to gobbling up seconds.

More sweet and savory ideas for using up your Concord grape bounty this fall:

Serve this complex jam with roast chicken or pork, or spoon atop goat-cheese crostini.

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Malena is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator whose work includes counseling families and groups to help them with lifestyle changes. As a nutrition consultant, Malena collaborates on research programs and provides nutrition-education services to the Latino community of Denver including the development of consumer-oriented print and video-learning materials on general nutrition and diabetes topics. She is an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.


This time of the year you’ll find fresh Ghooreh, unripe grapes, at Persian stores. Many, who are not familiar with how Ghooreh is used in Persian cuisine, are baffled by the fact that they are sold at this stage of their ripening as they taste extremely sour. While frozen Ghooreh is generally available throughout the year, there is something very exciting about seeing available in the fresh produce section.

Unripe grapes are sometimes also referred to as sour grapes. In Persian cooking they are used to add sourness to certain dishes. There are a few different recipes where sour grapes are use interchangeably with Dried Persian Limes. The most popular recipes where sour grapes are used are: Khoresht Bademjan (Stew with Eggplants), Khoresht Kadoo, and in the broth for Koofteh Tabrizi and/or Koofteh Berenji. When I lived in Tehran, we had one grape vine that my grandmother specifically used to pick its grapes when they were unripe to freeze for use throughout the year.

One of the reasons why I like purchasing ghooreh fresh has to do with its cost. It’s great that they are available to us at the Persian stores year round, but frankly the cost is pretty stip. For example, I purchased one pound of fresh ghooreh for $1.38 per pound. So my total was $1.38, right? Keep that in mind!

In the frozen section the brand above was $7.99 for 12 ounces.

And this other brand was $8.99 for even less, 8 ounces!

Needless to say I got more for my money by buying fresh! Prepping and freezing Ghooreh on your own is pretty easy.

Wash grapes then remove from stems.

Allow to dry completely on a paper towel. In the mean time, write Ghooreh on a freezer ziplock bag. I know I have to do that in our household as I often freeze mature grapes during the summer to have as a cooling snack!

Place grapes in the ziplock bag and seal closed making sure that as much air as possible is removed. It’s best to arrange the grapes so that they are in a single layer.

  • For the Grape Purée:
  • 1 pound Concord grapes
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • For the Cocktail
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 1/4 ounce grape purée
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 4 grapes

Pull grapes from their stems. Set aside 4 whole grapes. Place rest of grapes in blender with 1/4 ounce lime juice (to prevent browning). Blend to completely purée the grapes. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh strainer, pushing it through with the back of a ladle.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add vodka, grape puree, lime juice, simple syrup, lime wedges, and whole grapes. Shake vigorously and pour contents of shaker into an old-fashioned glass without straining.

How to Buy, Store, and Cook with Concord Grapes, in Season in September

Concord grapes are a true harbinger of fall. With thick, sour skins and a luscious, sweet interior, they're harvested in September through late October. Some are made into sweet, low-level-tannin wines by growers in the Northeast, but we're particularly fond of eating them by the handful, just as soon as they're purchased.

How to Buy

Inspect your grapes for pest damage, passing over any that have been pre-nibbled. Additionally, ask your vendor if they have been sprayed with chemicals or insecticide. If so, you will want to rinse them well before eating.

How to Store

Keep grapes on the counter for impulse snacking, or uncovered in the fridge if fruit flies are a problem (they enjoy these treats as much as you do).

How to Cook

Concord grapes have big seeds that are tannic and not tasty. Avoid the headache of having to smash and pit dozens of tiny grapes, and cook them into a syrup, instead. You can just strain and discard the solids, and will be left with a tasty use-in-anything sauce.

Watch the video: In Season


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