General Description: Grapes, members of the genus Vitus, are small, sweet, tart fruits clustered in large, pendulous bunches. The fruits of vine of the genus Vitus have been celebrated as both a food and the source of wine since antiquity. The grape species from which all European wines are made, Vitus vinifera, is indigenous to the area from the Black Sea to Afghanistan and is still found there today. The Phoenicians brought the vine to Greece not long after 100 BC It flourished in the Mediterranean climate and spread throughout the Roman Empire.
The leading producers of table grapes in the world are Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, the U.S., Greece, Portugal, and South Africa. There are numerous varieties of grape; all can be categorized as green, red, or blue-black and can be seeded or seedless.
In general, green grapes are more delicately flavored, with sweet yet tart notes. The most common variety of green grape is the Thompson seedless, though the most flavorful are Calmeria and Sugarone. Red grapes are sweet, tempered with earthy or spicy undertones. Popular varieties include the Flame seedless, Cardinal, Emperor, Red Globe, and Tokay. Blue-black grapes tend to have richer flavor, with the same characteristic sweet-tartness. Beauty seedless, Concord, and Zinfandel are all blue-black table grapes.
Season: Grapes are available year-round. Different varieties will peak at different times of the year.
Purchase: Look for grapes that are plump, fragrant, and firmly attached to pliable stems. Full color is the best indicator for flavor. Look at the area surrounding the stem end, because this is the first part to deteriorate.
Avoid: Avoid soft or wrinkled fruits and any with wet-looking or brownish tops.
Storage: Store grapes, refrigerated, wrapped in a paper towel in a vented plastic bag for up to 1 week.
- Rinse under cool running water.
- Shake to remove excess water.
Serving Suggestions: Add halved (seeded if necessary) green and red grapes to chicken salad. Make focaccia with Concord grape halves sprinkled with sugar pressed into the dough before baking. Serve frozen grapes as a snack on a hot summer day.
Flavor Affinities: Almonds, apples, blue cheese, chicken, fish, pears, pistachios, venison, walnuts.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com