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What’s in Season: Grapes


Who doesn’t like grapes? They’re crisp, smooth, gorgeous, tart, and as naturally sweet as can be. Now that they’re in season, they’re probably coming to you fresh from California rather than imported, so they will be firm and filled with flavor! Grapes are a perfect, no-fuss, bite-size snack on their own. A handful of chilled grapes promises a refreshing burst of sweetness after a workout, or delicate addition to late afternoon summer cocktail (try freezing them for this – grapes make lovely ice cubes). 

A Sweet History
Humans have been eating—and drinking—grapes since prehistoric times. They are native to at least three continents and grow in thousands of varieties. Table grapes in the United States are usually propagated to be seedless and thin-skinned for eating, whereas wine grapes are propagated to have thick skin for a fuller-flavored wine. Grapes are usually shades of purple or green, sometimes called red or white, with a light green interior. If you have a chance to try the almost indigo-colored concord grapes this fall, you will be amazed at their musky richness – and they look very sleek on a cheese platter.

What’s So Great About Grapes?
Before you start to worry about high sugar content, grapes are one of those foods that have an ever-increasing list of nutritional benefits. Like other berries (yes, grapes, like bananas, are botanically berries!), grapes are filled with anti-oxidants, linked to cancer-fighting properties. Studies have shown that grapes may play a role in sugar and insulin regulation, aid in cognitive function, offer longevity, and help the body fight bacteria and inflammation. Most of their nutritional value lies in their skins, which is why your doctor (or a French person) may have told you that a moderate intake of red wine is good for you. Yes, please!

When you’re shopping for grapes, look for firm, smooth clusters, free of wrinkles or piles of loose grapes, indicators that they may be old or damaged. Organic grapes are preferable if you can swing it; unfortunately, conventional grapes hold high pesticide residues on their skins. Wash and dry them thoroughly or drain in a colander right before consuming them. This way, they can last about a week in the refrigerator. Throw them into your healthy kid’s lunch, or try them with an assorted fruit tray, nuts, salads, grilled meats, wilted greens, tuna melts, or in makeshift leftovers like Curry Chicken Salad.

Here are some grape Test Kitchen recipes:

Chilled Fruit Soup
A perfect summer recipe, featuring melons, apples, and berries, pureed and chilled, like a sweet gazpacho!

Grape Salad
Assemble and throw in the fridge overnight for tomorrow’s picnic.

Jamie’s Salad with Maple Red Wine Vinaigrette
Grapes and pistachios balance out the bitter radicchio in this elegant salad.

Pecan Chicken
Tasty and easy: batter, bake, walk away, and finish off with roasted grapes!

Fruit Salad with Cream Cheese-Pecan Topping

Easy to prepare, the light flavors of the fruit compliment the rich topping.

Golda’s Frozen Waldorf Salad

A twist on the classic, it’s a sweet treat that will tantalize your taste buds.