I have to admit that as a kid growing up on the East Coast in the 1970s and ’80s, I didn’t really know what real grapes were. I mean, I knew what they were, but somehow I thought that the two grape-foods I was exposed to regularly were the true markers of grape taste: glass-bottled grape juice and grape-flavored Dimetapp, the kid’s cold medicine. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I realized grapes were not always best in a liquid, dark-purple form and that they didn’t always produce a reflexive lip-smacking “Ahhhh!” and a spine-tingling shiver. You’ve come a long way, baby!
Grapes come in many flavors and forms. Those stereotypical ’70s grape-flavored foods were all based on the taste of the Concord grape—a very sweet, seeded grape with dark purple skin and juice. In The FruitGuys world, we generally provide seedless varieties, as we have learned over the years that serving seeded grapes in workplaces can create challenges (“Anybody have a napkin? I don’t want to use my tie again...”).
During the course of the summer, we offer a nice range of grape colors and tastes. Generally the summer seedless varieties start with a light-green grape called the Perlette, then move on to the Red Flame, the green Thompson Seedless, and then back to the rich Red Crimson. Toward the end of summer, we see the Muscat and Black Seedless varieties. Grapes continue to ripen after being picked. You can see this change most readily in a light-colored variety like the Thompson. A fresh-picked Thompson is verdant green, but as it matures, the grape will take on a more caramel-brown hue. This is normal, and you’ll find that the taste evolves from tartness to a smoother caramelized-sweet taste. All grapes go through this process, but it’s harder to see the changes in dark-hued varieties. When selecting grapes, you can tell freshness by examining the stems. Fresh grapes will have green and pliable stems, while grapes that have been stored for a while will have twiggy and woody ones.
Enjoy and be fruitful!