Making the Most of Grape Season & California’s Specialty GrapesAntonia Stroe
With the grape season still in full swing in California, it’s the best time to talk about specialty grapes and why you shouldn’t miss out on this beloved autumn crop.
Ah, specialty grapes! Flavorful, versatile, and full of health-enhancing nutrients. Although sometimes considered a classical summer fruit, grapes are equally popular throughout fall and early winter.
So, while they’re still in full swing, we’ll talk about specialty grapes and their many health benefits. And since we’re on the topic of local, seasonal eating, we’ll also discuss the best time to purchase grapes for your home cooking or restaurant.
Why Grapes are Great for Our Health
We’ve always loved specialty grapes for their versatility and exceptional taste profiles. But you might not be aware that this go-to snack is also incredibly rich in nutrients! Let’s go through the main health benefits that grapes can bring to a well-rounded diet.
- They contain powerful antioxidant compounds which reduce cell damage by free radicals and may prevent some chronic diseases
- Grapes also contain Resveratrol, which is great for weight management and weight loss when consumed in moderate amounts (1/2 cup); the same compound is also thought to help slow down the aging process
- They’re rich in Vitamin E, which reduces oxidative stress and keeps your skin healthy
- A grape-enriched diet also promotes eye health, according to recent studies
- Packed with Potassium, grapes can help with lowering blood pressure, as well as the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Eating grapes may boost your memory, attention, and overall mood. In addition, due to their high melatonin levels, they’re also thought to support good sleep
Grape Farming Facts
California, Land of Grapes
In California, the grape boom began in 1839. The state has been supporting the vast majority of the U.S. grape production ever since – with no less than 85,000 acres currently under cultivation! California is particularly well-known for Chardonnay, but there is much more to explore within the broad category of seasonal, specialty grapes.
Unlike other fresh fruits, grapes are harvested fully ripe – Grapes From California tell us – because they do not sweeten after leaving the vineyard. So when it comes to the grape season, timing is everything.
Table vs. Wine Grapes
First, it’s important to know that table and wine grapes are inherently different, although certain specialty varieties are a good fit for both wine and consumption.
Grape varieties that we typically eat raw have been selectively picked and bred by growers to feature thin skin, few or no seeds, and sometimes larger sizes. Wine grapes, by contrast, usually have thicker skin, more seeds, and are smaller in size.
Specialty Grape Varieties
Scientists have discovered over 8,000 different grape varieties of wine and table grapes. Some of the most popular table grapes include:
- Concord: dark blue or purple, slip-skin, highly aromatic
- Champagne: tiny red fruit, sweet and fragrant, great for restaurant use
- Muscat: small to medium in size, white berries, “musk” aroma
- Crimson: pale red, medium-sized, great taste quality
- Red Globe: juicy, simple flavor, suitable for cold storage
- Sultanine (Thompson): white, ovoid berries, fleshy pulp
- Flame: medium-sized bunches with small, round fruit, crunchy pulp
Remember that rough handling, warm temperatures, and inappropriate moisture levels can cause healthy grape batches to rapidly decay.
However, if properly stored, grapes can be kept fresh for up to two weeks! To maximize the shelf life of specialty grapes, refrigerate them unwashed and dry. Do not squeeze or compress the bunches, and keep them separate from any produce high in ethylene gas (like onions). Rinse carefully and thoroughly before serving.
To learn how to store any type of produce for peak freshness and longer shelf life, head to this blog.
Grape Season Q&A
Are grapes available all year round?
Yes, you will find table grapes and grape-made products on supermarket shelves throughout the entire year. But, without a doubt, grapes are best enjoyed during peak season, as with all seasonal produce. Grape plants grow from spring throughout summer, when the first fruits start ripening.
When are grapes in season? What’s the best time to eat grapes?
Americans look forward to the grape season, roughly from August to November. You’ll notice that mid-fall, most varieties start disappearing, at least from the local farmers’ market.
The takeaway? Depending on the cultivated variety, you should buy and enjoy grapes from late summer to early fall, when they reach the peak of their taste and nutritional potential.
When does the grape season start in California?
As with the rest of the U.S., the grape season in California runs from late summer to early fall. To be more precise, grapes are harvested between July 10 to October 15, according to this California Harvest Calendar. Keep in mind that most Californian varieties are shipped after September 1.
Where to Get Wholesale Specialty Grapes (Buy in Bulk)
Naturally, your farmers’ market will always be a great option when it comes to buying fresh, local grapes. But if you don’t have time to make the trip, you can purchase wholesale specialty grapes online from Dine Market. Use our marketplace to order grapes in bulk straight from local suppliers at great quality and value!
You can find some of the following wholesale grape varieties on our website:
- Red Seedless Grapes
- Green Seedless Grapes
- Black Seedless Grapes
- Concord Grapes
- Cotton Candy Grapes
- Gum Drop Grapes