Grapes are in season right now. Get them fresh off the vine and try some of our favorite ways to prepare them.
When, Where, & What?
Grapes (Vitis spp, Vitaceae) are edible berries grown in clusters on small shrubs or vines. They grow best in temperate zones such as Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Chile. New world settlers found that grapes brought over from Europe didn’t survive the winter cold and were prone to fungal diseases. They developed the hybrid varieties found in America today. Today California is the largest producer of “table grapes” – the kind for snacking.
There are thousands of varieties of grapes. Some are grown for wine production while others are grown to be eaten as-is. Concord grapes are used to produce grape juice, jams and jellies. They’re blue in color, with a thick, chewy skin and contain seeds. They’re sold as table grapes along with other varieties like Interlaken, Lakemont, Einset Seedless and Venus. Muscat grapes are turned into raisins while Riesling grapes are used to produce wine. Dana found fun varieties when she scouted her local farmers market including Mars and Juniper grapes.
Grapes are typically round or oval, smooth skinned and juicy. Some varieties contain seeds while others are seedless. Some are “slip skin” where the skin can easily be removed while other varieties have skin that is tough to remove. Grapes are divided into categories by color: white or black (or red). White grapes range in color from pale yellow-green to light green, while black varieties range in color from light red to deep purple. In the U.S., peak season for grapes is August through October.