Table grapes are most popular for eating out of hand, but they can also be added to fruit salads or compotes and desserts or used on the savory side added to green salads, sauces, curries, stews, and stuffings or served alongside poultry, fish and seafood, and wild game.
Grapes can be broadly categorized as either table grapes or wine grapes, though many grapes can be used as both.
There are several dozen varieties of table grapes. They can be categorized as green, red, or blue-black and as seeded or seedless. In some European countries green grapes are grouped as “white” grapes and red grapes are grouped as “black” grapes.
Green grapes are delicately flavored with both sweet and tart flavors. Red grapes are sweet with spicy undertones. Blue-black grapes can be sweet but often have tart skins.
Here are some of the best known table grapes categorized by color:
Green grapes: Calmeria (seeded), Italia or Italian Muscat (seeded), Perlette (seedless), Sugarone (seedless), Thompson Seedless.
Red grapes: Cardinal (seeded), Catawba (seeded), Christmas Rose (seeded), Crimson Seedless, Delaware (seeded), Emperor (seeded), Flame Seedless, Flame Tokay (seeded), Red Globe (seeded), Red Malaga (seeded), Rouge (seeded), Ruby Seedless, Tudor Premium Red (seedless).
Blue-black grapes: Autumn Royal (seedless), Beauty Seedless, Concord (seeded and also a seedless variety), Ribier (seeded), Fantasy Seedless, Marroo (seedless), Niabell (seeded).
There are two principal species in the grape family. One species is native to Europe and the other is native to North America.
The specie Vitis vinifera is often called the European grape. European grapes are characterized by tight skins and generally high heat requirement for ripening. The best known European table grapes are the ‘Thompson Seedless’ and the ‘Flame Seedless’.
North American grapes fall mainly into the species Vitis labrusca. These grapes are also called slip skin grapes because their skins slip easily from the fruit pulp. Slip skin grapes are sometimes called ‘Concord’ type grapes and include the blue-black Concord grape, the green Niagara grape and the red Catawba grape.
Local season. The peak season for grapes is early summer through early winter, June through December in the northern hemisphere; January through June in the southern hemisphere.
Choose. Select grapes that are plump, fragrant, and firmly attached to pliable stems. Full color is an indicator for flavor. Green grapes are most flavorful when they have a yellowish-cast with a tinge of amber; red varieties have the most flavor when they are deep red; blue-black varieties are best when they have a full, rich, dark color. Grapes do not get ripen after picking.
Avoid grapes with a soft or wrinkled skin.
Amount. One pound of seedless grapes equals about 3 cups.
Store. Keep grapes wrapped in a paper towel in a vented plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Just harvested grapes should be cooled quickly to avoid dehydration.
Prepare. Rinse grapes under cool water and shake to remove excess water. When used for cooking, seedless grapes are usually left whole; seeded varieties can be halved and the seeds removed with a sharp knife.
Cook. Grapes are best served fresh, but can be cooked.
Poaching. Rinse seedless grapes and cut into small clusters. Simmer in poaching liquid until hot (2 to 3 minutes).
Serve. Grapes are best served fresh.
- Add grapes fruit salads and fruit compotes.
- Use grapes in mixed green salad, poultry, tuna, or ham salads.
- Add halved grapes to chicken salad.
- Add grapes to sauces, stuffings, curries, stews.
- Serve grapes with wedges of soft cheese.
- Use grapes as a garnish for filet of sole or chicken breast.
- Combine with avocado, grapefruit sections, melon balls, or strawberries.
- Dip whole grapes in lightly beaten egg white, then in sugar, refrigerate until coating is firm.
- Serve grapes frozen as a snack.
Flavor partners. Grapes have a flavor affinity for almonds, apples, blue cheese, chicken, fish, pears, pistachio, venison, walnuts.
Nutrition. Grapes contain natural sugars and small amounts of vitamins, minerals and potassium and are low in sodium. Twenty-four fresh grapes, about one cup, contain about 68 calories.