Nutrition: 1 cup of fresh grapes contains about 100 calories; that breaks down to about 4 or 5 calories per grape, depending on size. Grapes are high in vitamins C and K as well as such micronutrients as copper and manganese. Red, blue, black or purple grapes contain the same disease-fighting antioxidants found in red wine grapes. Grape skins contain the phytonutrient resveratrol, which helps reduce heart disease. Grape seeds, which are edible, also contain several vitamins and antioxidants.
Selection: Grapes do not ripen off the vine; they don’t get any sweeter with aging. Buy ready to eat. Look for firm, plump clusters, well attached to their stems. Those stems should be green, not brown. Green grapes may show a tinge of amber, but red, blue, black and similarly dark grapes should show no green. A powdery white coating on the fruit is normal; it’s called “bloom.” Avoid any signs of age such as shriveled or brown grapes, stickiness, brown spots or dry stems.
Storage: Fresh grapes should be stored in the refrigerator, up to three days, in a covered container or plastic bag. Grapes may pick up flavors and odors; avoid storing with onions, leeks, garlic or other strong-scented vegetables or herbs. Wash just before using. Pat dry. For best flavor, serve slightly chilled; it enhances crispness, too.
Grapes may be frozen. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet until the fruit are frozen solid, then transfer to a sealed plastic bag. Use frozen grapes instead of ice cubes. Or put them into a blender, process with a little water and make instant grape slush.
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Preparation: Wash and eat; that’s enough grape prep for most occasions. To remove seeds, cut the grape lengthwise with a sharp knife. Pop out the seeds with the knife point.
To peel, first freeze the grapes solid, then run them under lukewarm water until the skins start to split. The skins will then slide right off.
Roasted grapes make an interesting addition to salads or accompaniment to meats or poultry. To roast, place grapes in a baking dish or pan in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft and juicy.
Color keys: Like wine grapes, not all table grapes taste or look the same. They offer a wide range of flavors as well as shapes and sizes, according to variety and color. Grapes are classified as green, red or black (which includes blue and purple).
Seedless preferred: The majority of table grapes on the market now are seedless hybrids, grown from cuttings. Thompson Seedless, introduced in 1876 in Yuba City, remains popular for both table grapes and raisin production, but newer varieties such as Scarlet Royal or Flame red seedless have grown in sales.
Make homemade raisins: Wash and pat dry grapes. Arrange in a single layer on a metal mesh rack and place in a warm (250-degree) oven for eight hours or overnight. Store the raisins in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to six months.
Resources: For recipes and tips, click on www.grapesfromcalifornia.com/.