Divine fruit of the vine, grapes have been celebrated since antiquity as both food and wine — and they’re surely one of the most useful and versatile plants on Earth. Their fruit and juice have multiple uses; grape seeds can be pressed into oil; grape leaves are edible; grapes can be dried (raisins) for long-term storage; and the vines themselves make lovely decorative elements or an aromatic fuel for grilling foods.
There are wine grapes, table grapes and grapes grown for commercial purposes such as juicing or drying — but despite their array of colors, all grapes are categorized as white or black. White grape varieties range in color from pale yellow to green; black grapes go from light red to purple-black. Some have seeds, some don’t.
California is the largest producer of grapes in the US, both for wine and the table. The most common variety of table grape is the Thompson seedless. Unlike wine grapes, table grapes have low acid and are very sweet. As a general rule, white (or green) grapes are delicately flavored with a bit of tartness underlying the sweet taste, while black (or red and purple) grapes are sweeter and spicier.
Why choose organic grapes?
- Grapes are #3 on the Environmental Working Group's “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” a list of produce that carries the most pesticide residues when grown conventionally. So choosing organic grapes is a good idea — especially for children, whose growing bodies are so much more susceptible to environmental chemical exposures than adults’.
- At Earthbound Farm, we grow our grapes without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic grapes taste better, too!
- WhatsOnMyFood.org from the Pesticide Action Network shows you searchable results for fruit like grapes and a wide range of other organic and conventional foods. It’s an easy-to-use and empowering tool for learning about pesticide residues and their health effects for all of us.
How to select and store grapes
- Choose plump clusters with the grapes still attached to pliable stems. The fruit should be fairly firm but not rock-hard; grapes don’t ripen further once removed from the vine. Over-ripe grapes will be soft and wrinkled, maybe with browning or mold at the stem end.
- Color can be a sign of ripeness as well. Green grapes have a yellowish or straw color with a touch of amber at their taste peak. Dark varieties are best when most of the berries are deeply colored and show no hint of green.
- To store, wrap unwashed grapes loosely in a paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will keep for 7 to 10 days. They also can be left at room temperature in a cool, dry place, but their shelf life will be shorter.
Tips for using grapes
- Most table grapes are eaten out of hand as snacks, but their culinary uses are limited only by your imagination. Try freezing them in a single layer for a quick cold snack on a hot day; or toss small clusters in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and then roast in the oven at 500 degrees F for 15 minutes. Grapes can be used cooked or uncooked in both sweet and savory dishes to delicious effect.