What Are Grapes? Everything You Need To Know

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While humans first started cultivating the humble grape almost 8,000 years ago, these ancient berries have been around for about 65 million years. Today, there are nearly 10,000 different types of grapes, from your humble table grape to delicious red grapes.

What is a Grape?

The word grape translates to berry in Old English. As a botanical berry, grapes grow in grapevines in deciduous areas all over the globe.

There are over 10,000 different types of grapes all over the planet, including seedless, green, red, Concord, and wine grapes. They grow in clusters, typically along a trellis, for easy cultivation and harvesting.

The History of Grapes

Historians believe that wild grapes (Vitis vinifera) date back almost 65 million years. Archeologists trace the earliest use of grapes in areas such as Egypt and Asia Minor around 6,500 BCE. And it wasn’t until around 4,000 BCE that humans discovered that grapes could be used to make wine.

Today, the grape industry is a roaring business. The biggest exporters of grapes globally are China, Italy, and Australia. Grape growers all over the globe produce wide varieties of grapes from anything from winemaking, juice, or just good old-fashioned snacking grapes.

What Does a Grape Taste Like?

With so many varieties of grapes, the flavors shift as you travel to different regions. Most grape varieties fall under four distinct flavor profiles, which are sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Grapes found at the grocery store are sweet and sour, similar to a blueberry, with a hint of acidity and a delightful sweetness.

Cooking with grapes is a great way to draw out their natural flavors. When cooked down into a jam, jelly, or red wine, the flavors are incredibly sweet with just a hint of acidity. It’s also a great addition to smoothies because the skin is delicate and hides so much flavor and nutrition.

How to Tell When Grapes Are Ripe

So, how can you tell if the grapes at the grocery store (or on the vine in your garden) are ready to eat? Here are a few tips to ensure your grapes are at the peak of ripeness.

ColorWith so many colors and varieties of grapes, the color varies. However, you want to look out for grapes that appear brown. Brownness on grapes means they are overripe.
FirmnessUnripe grapes have a hard exterior. A perfectly plump and ripe grape is slightly firm to the touch but has a bit of give to it.
SmellFresh grapes are aromatic, and underripe grapes do not have much of a scent. Smell the bunch of grapes. If it smells fragrant, it’s ready.
BruisingUnlike other fruits, slight bruising isn’t a cause for concern. Grapes are delicate! They’re still perfectly safe to eat if they check all the other ripeness boxes and are slightly bruised.

Common Types of Grapes

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With over 10,000 different varieties of grapes, it can seem overwhelming. Let’s break down the main types of grapes and their popular uses.

Red GrapesRed grapes aren’t your traditional snacking grapes. They’re bitter and salty- bad for snacking but perfect for wine!
White GrapesWhite grapes are crispy, juicy, and perfect for snacking. They’re delightfully sweet with subtle floral notes.
Green GrapesGreen grapes are another grocery store staple. They’re one of the sweetest varieties of grapes with just a hint of acidity.
Black GrapesBlack grapes are insanely juicy with a sweet flavor and a hint of floral taste.
Concord GrapesConcord grapes are a little bit of everything. They’re sweet, tart, and just a hint of bitterness.
Seedless GrapesThe name says it all! Seedless grapes have tiny, soft seeds that make them perfect for snacking.

Cooking with Grapes

The great news about cooking with grapes is that they are straightforward to prepare. Follow these simple steps to get them ready for jam!

1. Remove the stems. If they’re perfectly ripe, the stems should pull away very easily.

2. Run them under cool water. Running them under cool water removes any dirt and debris on the surface.

3. Dry them gently with a tea towel, and they’re ready to go!

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What’s more classic than grape jam on toast?

Check out some of these delicious grape recipes below.

Three Cheese Roasted Grape Pizza: Pizza and grapes sound like an unlikely pair, but they work in this recipe! It takes classic pizza to new heights with three different types of cheeses and roasted grapes (that are delightfully sweet and savory).

Grape Jam (no pectin): Grape jam is a classic, especially for peanut butter and jelly. This homemade grape jam recipe doesn’t utilize pectin, but it’s still as thick, jammy, and delicious on a sandwich or slice of breakfast toast.

5-Minute Grape Sorbet: The great thing about this grape sorbet is that it is incredibly easy and celebrates the grapes’ flavors. With simple ingredients such as grapes, sugar, lemon, and honey, it’s a wonderful sweet treat for summer.

How to Store Grapes

When stored on the countertop, fresh grapes won’t last very long. Grapes prefer cool, dry conditions, so the back of the vegetable crisper in the fridge is a great storage location. When stored in the vegetable crisper in its original packaging, grapes will stay fresh for up to three weeks.

You can also freeze them by placing them in a freezer bag, which will remain fresh for up to 12 months. And, of course, you can always dry your grapes to become everyone’s favorite snack: dried grapes, aka raisins!

Nutritional Benefits of Grapes

Eating grapes is an excellent source of beneficial vitamins and nutrients. From the grape skin down to the juicy pulp, every inch of a grape delivers a boost of vitamins such as Vitamin C and Vitamin K.

Diets rich in Vitamin C help boost your immune system, lowers cholesterol, and help tackle cardiovascular disease. Grapes are also a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential for your health because they fight off free radicals, manage oxidative stress, and help fight off heart disease.

Are Grapes Safe For Dogs?

No, grapes are not safe for your pets. Grapes (and raisins) are off the menu for your beloved dogs and cats.

There is a toxic substance that researchers can’t quite pinpoint that is incredibly toxic to dogs. Sometimes, even one grape can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, so keep them away from the grapes!

Where to Purchase Grapes

Luckily, grapes are wildly available at most grocery stores. Grocery stores typically carry popular snacking grapes like American grapes and seedless grapes but may not carry some of the more exotic varieties such as Merlot will be a little trickier to track down.

If you are hunting for a specific type of grape, you might need to head to a local farmer’s market when they are in season, typically between August and October.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer with a deep love for food. She loves baking sweet treats and experimenting with different fruits and veggies for her morning smoothies. When she’s not writing, she loves powerlifting, baking, gardening, playing video games, and caring for her cats!

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