Everything to Know about Grapes
Including the best varieties for snacking and how to cook with fresh grapes.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
Grapes are a versatile fruit that can be pressed into juice, preserved as jellies or baked into desserts. But there’s no denying fresh grapes’ snacking potential when red, green, purple and white bunches start appearing on farmers markets’ tables. Here’s everything you need to know about grapes, including how to select and store them, plus some of our favorite grape recipes.
What Are Grapes?
Grapes are edible berries that grow in clusters on small shrubs or vines. They grow best in temperate zones such as Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Chile. Today, California is the largest producer of table grapes, also known as the kind for snacking.
Grapes are divided into categories by color: white (or green) 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. Grapes are typically round or oval, smooth skinned and juicy. Some varieties contain seeds while others are seedless. Some are “slip skin,” which means the skin can easily be removed, while other varieties have skin that is tough to remove.
From a nutrition standpoint, Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook, says, “One cup of grapes contains 62 calories, vitamin K, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. Grapes are packed with a variety of antioxidants. One powerful antioxidant called proanthocyanidin was found to have 20 times greater antioxidant power than vitamin E and 50 times greater antioxidant power than vitamin C. Red grapes specifically contain lycopene, which may help prostate and breast cancer.”
When Are Grapes In Season?
In the U.S., peak season for grapes is August through October, though some varietals may be harvested in early summer or late fall.
How to Know When Grapes Are Ripe
Look for grapes that are plump, brightly colored and firmly attached to their stems. Avoid grapes that are wrinkled or that have brown spots by the stem, which are signs that the grapes are past their prime.
5 Varieties of Grapes
There are thousands of varieties of grapes. Some are grown for wine production while table grapes are grown to be eaten fresh. Here are five common varieties of table grapes.
- Red Flame: seedless California hybrid that are large and round with a variegated red hue and slightly tart flavor.
- Red Globe: seedless variety with red skin, firm flesh and mild flavor.
- Thompson Seedless: pale green with a crisp texture and sweet flavor.
- Cotton Candy: hybrid seedless white grape varietal with light green skin and robust sweetness.
- Concord: contain seeds and are blue in color, with a thick, chewy skin. Commonly used to produce grape juice, jams and jellies.
How to Store Grapes
Store grapes unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. Be sure to wash thoroughly before eating as grapes are typically sprayed with insecticides.
What to Cook with Grapes
Fresh grapes are delicious for snacking, but they also make great preserves and are a wonderful addition to salads, soups, roasted proteins, desserts and drinks.
Grapes bring a welcome burst of sweetness to savory salads, like this Red Cabbage and Grape Salad tossed in a Dijon dressing, or as a foil to bitter greens, as with these Pork Chops with Endive Grape Salad. Try pairing grapes with hearty grains such as quinoa, farro, barley or brown rice to create a sweet, earthy base, like this 15-Minute Chicken, Rice and Grape Salad or this Grape and Grain Salad with Lemony Chicken dressed with a lemon-mint vinaigrette. In this Thanksgiving Fruit Salad, halved seedless green and red grapes, pears and pomegranates are pulled together with a herbaceous-citrus-spiced syrup to transform fruit salad into a stunning holiday meal closer.
Soups and Appetizers
Grapes are a gazpacho ingredient mainstay in their own right, as this Red Grape Gazpacho and this Green Gazpacho with Edible Flowers prove. For an easy yet elegant appetizer, roast grapes and pile them onto crostini with creamy cheese, toasted nuts and a drizzle of aged balsamic, as with these Taleggio and Roasted Grape Crostini. For a fresh take on the grape-and-chicken-based Waldorf Salad, try employing lettuce leaves or cups to make these build-your-own Waldorf Chicken Boats.
Roasting grapes concentrates their sweet-tart flavor and retains their juiciness, making them an ideal complement to roasted proteins, like this 30-Minute Roasted Pork with Grapes and Couscous or these Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Grapes and Olives. Fresh grapes lend a snappy sweetness that complements pork dishes, like Pork Wellington with Greens and Grapes or these Cumin-Lime Pork Chops with Grape Salsa, where green grapes and red and yellow grape tomatoes make a vibrant medley that’s augmented with lime juice and cilantro.
Grapes make a lovely addition to cheese boards, but you can up the ante by making these Sweet Roasted Grapes and serving the syrupy grapes with a variety of soft cheeses to create a dessert-worthy cheese plate. Concord grapes achieve center-piece status with this Concord Grape Layer Cake, in which concord grapes and apples make a lush filling while sugared concord grapes add a festive flourish. For a less labor-intensive grape-centric baked good, try baking red seedless grapes under a puffy biscuit topper to make this juicy, jammy Grape Almond Cobbler. Or employ store-bought puff pastry, grape jelly and assorted seedless grapes to make these Grape-Vanilla Tartlets.
Halved fresh grapes are a go-to addition to a pitcher of sangria or festive sippers, like this Sparkling Sangria. Frozen grapes help keep drinks chilled and make for a fun, edible garnish, but they also add an icy frothiness to blended drinks, like these Frozen Grape and Mint Margaritas or this nourishing Green Smoothie.