Everything to Know About Cooking and Shopping for In Season Grapes

The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we’ll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To market, we go!

Grapes. Popped into your mouth straight from the vine or enjoyed as wines, juices, jams, jellies, raisins, or biting vinegars, they’re tiny but mighty fruits. With a long list of different varieties, all grapes grow in photogenic clusters of oblong berries (yes, they’re technically a berry!) and range in color from black to yellow, orange to dark blue, and of course, the classic purple and green. A popular fruit the world over, here’s all you need to know about shopping for, storing, and cooking with grapes.

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1. Hello, My Name is Grape

If you’ve ever walked through a vineyard, you’ve probably wondered if there’s a big difference between grapes used for winemaking, and grapes you’d pick up at the supermarket. Aren’t all grapes, grapes? With the huge variety of cultivated grapes, some are simply better suited to winemaking, drying, or eating and are separated as such: table grapes being grapes best suited for the table, wine grapes being those used to make wine.

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Table grapes are usually bigger, seedless, and have a thin skin. They are sweet tasting with about 15% sugar by weight. Wine grapes are smaller grapes, with seeds, and a thick skin. At harvest, they are really sweet, about 24% sugar by weight. Some species of grape can be both table grapes and wine grapes, as they’re complex hybrids that have been bred for specific characteristics.

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We’ll focus on table grapes in this article, with the most common varietals being white-green grapes like the sultana (Thompson Seedless), Niagara, and Italia; red grapes like the Delaware, Flame Seedless, and Red Globe; and the blue-black grapes like the Concord and Autumn Royal.

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2. When to Buy and How to Store Grapes

Many supermarkets sell grapes all year round, but harvests for table grapes usually start in late summer—and picking them up in season will lead to the best tasting product. Grapes have their peak season from September to October. Green stems and firm, plump grapes are an indication of freshness. The fruit should have a light white film on its skin. This film develops on the outside of the grapes as the overnight dew evaporates and is a sign for high quality grapes.

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Grapes should be stored in the vegetable or fruit compartment of your fridge and will remain fresh for about one week. Washing them right before you’ll eat or cook with them is best, as washing them ahead of time makes them more susceptible for bacteria.

3. The Nutritional Benefits of Grapes

Thanks to the summer sun, grapes are packed with nutrients like carotenoids, Vitamin C, E, and B, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. And, for all the calorie calculators out there: Grapes contain just 60 kcal per 3.5 oz (100 g) serving.

Other beneficial ingredients of grapes are resveratrol and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC). These flavonoids are part of the phytochemicals and are able to combat free radicals. Grapes also contain more carbohydrates than other fruit and the glucose is a great energy booster, so it’s ideal to snack on some grapes after an exhausting workout or right before an important exam or meeting.

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As simple rinse and dry and your grapes are ready to be used. Cut them in halves or quarters, pop them into your mouth or pan whole, or even cook them down.

Ripe grapes stand out for their intensely sweet taste. They work perfectly when used raw as toppings for cakes and tarts, cooked for making jams and jellies, or as a chewy-sweet raisin or sultana in porridge or granola.

4. How to Prepare Grapes

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Speaking of raisins, did you ever wonder about the difference between raisins, sultanas, and currants? Well, raisins and sultanas are made of the same grape—the Thompson Seedless—but raisins are dried naturally, whereas a sultana is dipped in a vegetable oil and acid and then dried, giving them a plumper texture and lighter, yellow color. They can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Dried currants are often Zante currants, which are actually small, dried grapes! They can be used as a substitute for raisins and sultanas but keep in mind their small size.

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5. What to Make Next

All week long, we’ll be featuring new grape recipes on Kitchen Stories to make the most of the season. Check back to see what’s new, then try one for yourself! Here’s where to start:

One-pan chicken breast with creamy grape sauce

One-pan chicken breast with creamy grape sauce

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Pizza with Brie cheese, grapes and thyme

Pizza with Brie cheese, grapes and thyme

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Lemon ricotta semifreddo with grape compote

Lemon ricotta semifreddo with grape compote

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