From Vine to Dine

Grapes are a tasty—and versatile—fall treat.

A bunch of grapes is not often thought of as a culinary cluster of genius in the kitchen, but that’s because we take them for granted. They sit in the produce aisle among the more exotic fruits of the day that catch our attention, like passion fruit, persimmons and Canary melons. We usually think of grapes as a grab-and-go snack or as a no-sweat garnish on a cheese platter. 

Grapes are one of the oldest plants on Earth—some existing more than 130 million years ago! Archaeologists have been trying to pinpoint grapes’ exact origins and believe they most likely were cultivated around the Caspian Sea. Research has revealed that around 8,000 years ago in the region of Georgia, wine residues were discovered on the inside of old clay storage jars. We know the ancient Greeks and Romans made, drank and cooked with wine, and paid homage to the god of wine, Dionysus for the Greeks and Bacchus for the Romans. Huge numbers of ancient amphorae flasks have been discovered that were filled with wine and transported to the known world.

Grapes are small, round or oval berries that have a juicy flesh covered in a smooth skin. Table grapes are just that, eaten out of hand, as opposed to grapes used in viniculture to make wine. Fall is usually harvest season, and last year, 3.9 million tons of grapes were harvested in California. The way they hang in tight bunches on scribbled-looking curlicue vines that twist and wander is truly nature’s work of art.

We are fortunate to have several varieties of grapes, from green to red, purple to almost black. Thompson, Concord, Delaware, Catawba, Flame and Red Globe are popular varieties, although they are often not labeled as such.

Purchase grapes with clusters that are full and plump-looking with a bright, not dull, color. Avoid grapes that look wrinkled, have brown spots or limp stems. One tip to check for ripeness is to take a bunch of grapes and shake them. If the fruit does not fall off the stems, it is fresh. This helps avoid getting any sour grapes.

Cooking with grapes can offer new taste sensations that can be incorporated into everything from refreshing fruit kabobs to sauces for main dishes to grape pie. Grapes are versatile and healthy, and easily go from vine to dine.  

Grape recipes:

Categories: Food & Recipes