These are Not Your (Grand)Mother's Concords!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Seedy snotballs of goo with thick unchewable skin. Sounds gross, eh? Well, that, if you think about it, is how you might describe the texture of a Concord grape. Oh my, yuck. Sure, the flavor can be outstanding, but I'd rather it in juice or jelly form, thank you. For those of us who grew up eating Thompson or Flame grapes from the grocery store, those Concords are rather unappealing for fresh eating. But there are more selections of grapes around here than those...and they're out of this world!

Jupiter grapes, in particular, are fantastically rich-flavored seedless grapes which thrive in this climate. Delightful for fresh-eating (with no seeds or snotballs included!), Jupiter can also be used to great effect in recipes. Try them in a grape crisp (you can mix them with apples or pears, too), grape pie (yes, it is a thing which is delicious!), this recipe for chicken, or any number of mixed drinks. Or, do like I do and use them instead of blueberries in your morning oatmeal! Hint: I freeze LOTS of Jupiter to have for my breakfasts year-'round. Simply take a single-size serving of frozen grapes out of the bag, heat them in the microwave for a minute or minute and a quarter, and then add to your hot cereal.

Petite Jewel grapes are delicate little gems, best eaten fresh. They're great for snacking, and can add a lively flavor and juiciness to a salad with more flavorful items in it like arugula and feta. Plus, they're just gosh-darned cute! Some people call these "Champagne grapes", but that is a misnomer. "Champagne grapes" refer to a particular type of tiny grape which are eaten fresh or used to make tiny raisins which are sometimes labelled currants. They're not used to make Champagne either, but rather gained that name because, of all things, a photo shoot in days past where a flute of Champagne was next to those particular little wonders.

But I digress....Petite Jewel then, are not champagne grapes, but they are lovely and fun. You can, however, make them even more special WITH Champagne as a base for a marinade.

Vanessa grapes are another seedless wonder which are juicy and sweet, and have the most amazing and addictive, almost spicy flavor quality. That is spicy as in spices, not spicy as in hot!

We have a few other varieties of grapes in lesser quantities, including Thunder grapes. Dark blue and (unfortunately) seeded, these are bursting thunderously with flavor, but have none of the snotball characteristic of Concords! Thunder grapes are an NSO exclusive. In other words, you'll find them nowhere else. Way back in the days of yore, a grape developer died, leaving his developments-in-progress up for grabs to those growers who might carry on the work. Farmer Ike of course acquired a number of his selections and over the past 15 years has been making selections based on flavor and growth characteristics. The only specimen Ike has kept is Thunder (so named by him because of it's booming flavor), and our current planting is still gearing up its production. So, hopefully, more Thunder will be on its way in years to come!

If you are aiming to make juice or jelly, sure - go for those Concords if you want to. But if you want to delight in grape-y local flavors for fresh eating, now's the time to enjoy grapes that put Thompson's to shame!