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Sweet California Grapes

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Lately produce departments are overflowing with beautiful red, green and black grapes.  Over 99% of the grapes grown commercially in the United States are from California.  Grapes are grown in the 450 mile long by 50 mile wide area between Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley regions and in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County.  Grape Season begins in May down in Coachella Valley which includes Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, with early varieties like the seedless red Flame and green Sugarone.  As the weather gets hotter in July the San Joaquin valley starts producing varieties such as the seedless green Thompson and red Crimson.  Grape season continues into January with red Crimson and the black Autumn Royal to name a few.  There are over 70 varieties grown and more are constantly being developed.

Seedless red Flame, Black Summer Royale and Green Sugarone grapes

Click here to learn more about the most popular California grape varieties.

California’s mild winters with mostly sunny days make it the perfect location for growing grapes.  Cold and wet weather is the worst thing for grapes. If there is too much rain during the growing season the grapes won’t have a chance to dry out.  This can cause mildew, resulting in stunted berry growth and cosmetic damage.  Organic growers will use a dusting of sulfur to dry out the mildew.  Unfortunately this can result in some scaring on the grapes and thinner skin which causes some grapes to rupture and split. This means a smaller crop of grapes and higher prices.

Grapes are always picked ripe and do not ripen off the vine. Look for grapes with green, pliable stems and plump berries.  See a powdery-white coating on the grapes?  That’s bloom and it’s good!  Bloom is a naturally occurring substance that protects grapes from moisture loss and decay. Grapes keep for up to two weeks when stored and handled properly.  Grapes should always be refrigerated to maximize shelf life.  Store grapes unwashed and rinse before eating.  Like most berries, grapes tend to absorb odors.  Try to avoid storing them next to things like green onions or leeks. (www.freshcaliforniagrapes.com)

Larger grapes do not always mean they are sweeter. Try the tiny champagne grapes for a sweet snack.

Champagne Grapes

They are perfect as is, dropped in a glass of champagne or use them to decorate a cake.  All grapes are also delicious as a frozen snack, tossed in a salad or served on a cheese platter.

Earl will be speaking about grapes this Saturday on An Organic Conversation.  Check it out live in San Francisco on KNEW 960AM from 10-11am or download the pod cast later if you miss it. An Organic Conversation also airs on other stations throughout the country. All stations are listed on their website.

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