Here in the United States, we often think that bigger is better. Baby seedless grapes are an exception to that rule.
When I was a young kid selling produce off the back of my father’s truck in North Jersey, all seedless grapes looked like baby grapes. They were so sweet that my father and uncle were able to make delicious wine out of them—not that it was on my approved drinking list at that age! As time went on, society started to buy with its eyes, rather than its taste buds, and began demanding grapes that were bigger. Because baby grapes were so small, they stopped being sent to the market. But more recently, demand has resurged for them again, because they’re so sweet and delicious, and because consumers are savvy. The season for baby seedless grapes is late August through the end of September, so get them now while they’re available. And if you can’t find them in your store, just ask a produce manager.
Aside from being delicious, sweet and easy to eat, grapes offer a broad range of health benefits. Their many phytonutrients (such as resveratrol) are linked to the prevention of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Green grapes are also a rich source of the mineral copper, which boosts energy. Their wealth of antioxidants help promote long life, too. So enjoy grapes year-round—and especially the baby seedless variety during their short season this month. You’ll be glad you did!
Growing Baby Seedless Grapes
Every fall in California, baby seedless grapes from the Thompson seedless grape variety are grown. Baby seedless grapes result when the grapes are left to grow naturally and aren’t thinned out. This process is usually initiated to make raisins, but over the past few years, farmers have discovered that consumers have come to enjoy the fresh, sweet, tender taste of these delicate grapes. I got hooked on these grapes years ago and find them to be one of the best and sweetest to eat during the fall season. These really are seasonal grapes, usually only produced in the fall when the sun is still strong and the weather starts to turn cool.Treat them as you would any other seedless grape and enjoy them, but remember: Because they’re full of sugar, they won’t last long. So eat them, don’t store them!
Selection and Storage
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color. They should be firmly attached to a fresh-looking green stem, with no evidence of wrinkling or withering. There should be a dusty bloom on the skin of the grape itself (just like the dusty bloom on blueberries);this is a naturally occurring substance that helps protect the grapes from the elements and serves as a good indication of freshness. Green or white grapes have a golden glow when they’re ripe, while red grapes are a soft, rich red. Black grapes have a deep, blue-black color.
Grapes don’t ripen off the vine, so what you buy is what you get. They’re very delicate and need to be handled carefully. Refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag, and never wash them until you’re ready to eat them (moisture will cause them to deteriorate very quickly). Grapes will last up to a week if properly stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best to eat them as soon as possible.
Grapes are great for out-of-hand eating or as a dessert, snack, component of a fruit or green salad, or complement to wine and cheese.
Here are some of my favorite tips for serving and enjoying grapes:
- In the summer, toss grapes into salads or mix them into yogurts and cereals for a breakfast treat.
- Garnish a breakfast plate of waffles or pancakes with grapes, either raw or dipped in cinnamon sugar.
- Freeze grapes and enjoy them as a dessert or low-calorie snack. They make great all-natural popsicles, and kids will love them!
- To frost grapes, beat an egg white until frothy. Dip grapes in the mixture then roll in granulated sugar. Place on a wire rack to dry for about 15–20 minutes and enjoy.
- To peel grapes for a specific recipe or high-end aesthetic, start at the stem end and separate the skin from the pulp with a knife. For extra-easy skin removal, dip the grapes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in ice water.
During these dog days of summer and impending fall, green grapes make wonderful additions to healthy, refreshing smoothies. Here’s a recipe for one that we like to make in our house at this time of year. Go green, stay cool and enjoy!
Baby Seedless Grape Smoothie
- 1 cup ice cubes
- ½–1 cup baby green grapes (or regular green grapes), fresh or frozen
- ½ cup greens of your choice (spinach, kale, etc.)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup orange juice (or water)
- 1–2 tablespoons honey to taste (if you desire additional sweetness)
Blend everything together, pour into a glass and drink up!
About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 65 years of experience in the produce industry, New Jersey’s own “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author, and TV personality who’s appeared on a highly popular segment on NBC’s Weekend Today in New York, broadcast every Saturday morning for over 28 years. For more information, visit producepete.com.
About Susan Bloom
A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey–based freelance writer who covers topics ranging from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She’s collaborated with Produce Pete on a broad range of articles for over a decade.