How to Properly Store Grapes So They Last
Can we get a quick round of applause for the hard-working all-star of the berry family, grapes? (Yes, grapes are berries.) Whether they’re serving as an essential part of your holiday snack board, juicing up a classic Waldorf Salad, or quenching your craving for dessert in the form of refreshing frozen grapes — the humble, antioxidant-filled berry deserves its due amongst fruits. But despite their versatile uses, one challenge has befallen many a home cook — how to properly store grapes so that they stay crisp and juicy rather than turn soft and prematurely shriveled (we’re not always trying to make wine, after all!).
For the very best tips on how to choose, wash, and store grapes for maximum freshness and shelf-life, we turned to the faculty at UC Davis’ PostHarvest Technology Center. The center focuses on preventing losses and improving the quality of post-harvest produce. Follow along so that you, too, can harbor the best grapes for frozen grape and granola yogurt bark, crisp and spicy pickled grapes, or all-week snacking.
How to Choose the Best Grapes
Look for grapes that are firmly and securely attached to the vine and be sure to check for any deterioration around the grape’s connection to the stem. Choose grapes with stems that appear strong and slightly green — a withered brown stem may mean that grapes are further along in the ripening process and have already lost moisture.
“The stems are a good indicator — they lose moisture before the fruit, and if they’re dry, they haven’t had the proper temperature management,” says Dr. Irwin R. Donis-González, assistant professor of cooperative extension in postharvest engineering at UC Davis.
And while experts advise us to purchase and store grapes that are still on the vine, if you do purchase loose berries in convenience clamshell packaging, make sure to get them into the refrigerator quickly and plan on eating them sooner, says Dr. Elizabeth Mitcham, director at the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center. “The grapes off the vine will have a shorter shelf life due to the small injuries from removing the stems,” she says.
While some consumers recommend looking for a powdery white coating on grapes called “bloom” as an indicator of freshness, Dr. Mitcham notes that while “bloom is created from the natural waxes on the surface of the fruit on some varieties, consumers cannot judge the freshness of the grapes from the bloom, as many varieties do not have it.”
Check the Hue of the Grape Skin
- Green grapes should have a slightly yellow hue.
- Red grapes should appear purple-red without any sign of green.
- Black grapes should have a rich purple skin.
Another way to spot a healthy grape? The glow of shiny skin. “Shininess does reflect a higher-quality product,” says Dr. Donis-González. “Moisture loss and shriveling causes grapes to lose shininess, as light reflects differently — it’s an indirect reflection of its water status,” he adds.
Finally, for the best quality grapes, look for ones that have the shortest route from farm to table by shopping for local produce when you can. “Transportation time of any product will affect the quality, and supply chain issues have exacerbated this,” said Dr. Donis-González.
Should I Wash My Grapes?
Yes, but not right away! Although it’s been drilled into our heads that we should always wash our produce, the timing is key here. “Grapes should not be washed until you are ready to eat them,” says Dr. Mitcham. “It is very difficult to dry grapes thoroughly, and if they are not dried thoroughly they will deteriorate more quickly.” Washing grapes before you store them speeds up deterioration and the threat of mold.
While we came across a few online suggestions to wash grapes in a vinegar bath before drying and storing them in an airtight container, Dr. Mitcham says there’s little benefit to that. “If they really want to use the vinegar wash, that should be done only before consumption,” she says.
How to Properly Store Grapes in the Fridge
Dr. Mitcham recommends storing grapes in the higher humidity produce bin of your refrigerator to help reduce water loss. If you don’t have a high humidity bin or don’t have room in it, you can store your grapes on a shelf in the fridge. Either way, leave the grapes in the bag or clamshell you purchased them in. If you are storing grapes in a plastic bag that doesn’t already have holes, Mitcham says to leave the bag open or add several pencil-eraser sized holes to the bag to maintain proper levels of humidity and prevent grapes from drying out.
If you’re tempted to leave your grapes out on the counter, don’t do it! “Typically our home temperatures are at or around 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit), and the fridge is at or around 4° Celsius (39° Fahrenheit),” says Dr. Donis-González. “That means that there is, at minimum, at least a 20-degree differential between the two — when there is a 20-degree difference in climate, it leaves the produce open to a 10-times-faster rate of degradation.”
How Long Will My Grapes Keep?
Speaking of shelf life, if you’re wondering how long you have to enjoy your bounty of berries — that depends on when they were harvested, when you purchased them, and if they’ve been properly stored, says Dr. Mitcham. That said, properly stored grapes should last at least a week in the fridge.
Can I Freeze Grapes?
And if you’re looking for long-term storage, you do have the option of freezing your grapes — in this case, you should plan on washing them before properly drying and popping them into the freezer. Properly stored frozen grapes can last up to 3 months in the freezer.
I Now Know Everything About Grapes!
Go forth, my berry good friends, and enjoy the crunchiest, juiciest grapes imaginable! And if all of this is just too much for you … there are always grape-flavored Pop-Tarts.