Ingredient Intelligence

The Ultimate Grape Guide

published Oct 6, 2022
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types of grapes arranged on white
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Fermented into wine, sun-dried into raisins, squeezed into juice, and preserved as jams and jellies — grapes are one of the most versatile fruits in the world. But it’s hard to beat eating grapes fresh, right off the stem — especially when they’re in season locally.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Types of Grapes

What Are Table Grapes?

Table grapes — the kind covered in this guide — are grown specifically for eating fresh off the vine, rather than being turned into wine or dried into raisins.

Table grapes come in multiple colors, including red, green, purple, black, and yellow. While you can find basic red and green grapes in the supermarket year-round, starting in the fall, farmers markets and grocery stores will be brimming with a sweet array of specialty grapes with irresistible names like Gum Drop, Cotton Candy, and Champagne.

Here’s a guide to 13 of the most delicious types of table grapes for eating out of hand. Nature’s candy, these finger foods also pair well with pungent cheeses, earthy wild rice, and even poultry. Read on to learn about the flavors and seasons for these grapes, plus the best way to use them other than eating them straight off the bunch.  

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Concord grapes

Concord

Many of us grew up with Welch’s concord grape juice and jelly, so the taste of these deep purple grapes is familiar. The Concord grape was first grown in the mid 1800s by Ephraim Wales Bull in Concord, Massachusetts. Bull experimented with thousands of grapes native to New England before cultivating this sweet, floral, juicy grape with a musky undertone and tangy finish. Concord grapes have seeds and a thick, dark purple skin that separates easily from the pulp with a quick squeeze.

In season: September and October

We recommend: Spread Concord grape pulp over peanut butter on bread for a next-level PB&J or make a concord grape pie, which is a labor of love but so delicious.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Champagne grapes

Champagne Grapes

Not to be confused with Pinot Noir or Chardonnay wine grapes that are used to create sparkly Champagne, Champagne grapes are tight clusters of purple, pearl-sized, seedless grapes best eaten off the stem. They’re sweet, tart, and crisp, and sometimes go by the name Corinth grapes or Black Corinth grapes.

In season: Late spring through early fall

We recommend: Champagne grapes make a nice addition to a cheese plate because they are small and pretty. Or freeze them and add them to cocktails.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Cotton Candy grapes

Cotton Candy

The most well-known grape produced by the specialty grape company Grapery, Cotton Candy grapes tastes like, well, cotton candy with a hint of vanilla and a slight tartness. The green, oval, seedless fruit is sweet but not cloying, with 12 percent more sugar than regular table grapes.

In season: Mid-August through September

We recommend: Cotton Candy grapes tossed in a grape salad.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Flame seedless grapes

Flame Seedless

Introduced in the U.S. in 1973, Flame Seedless grapes are a hybrid of Thompson Seedless and a handful of other grapes. One of America’s most popular table grapes, the Flame Seedless has large clusters of red round grapes that are firm and sturdy, with a long shelf life.

In season: Mid-summer to late-summer

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Moon Drop grapes

Moon Drop

Grown by Grapery in the San Joaquin Valley, these long, cylindrical dark purple grapes are seedless with light green flesh. They’re crisp, and have an intense grape flavor with a touch of tartness.

In season: August to November

We recommend: Drape them over a charcuterie board.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Thomcord grapes

Thomcord

In 1983, grape breeders from San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center came up with Thomcord, a hybrid of the popular and widely sold green grape Thompson Seedless and a Concord grape. The Thomcord combines the delicate sweetness of the Thompson with the deep, grape-jelly flavor of the Concord — minus those pesky seeds. The round, dark-purple Thomcord resembles the Concord on the outside and is plump and firm on the inside. The flesh is mild and sweet and a little tangy.

In season: July to August

We recommend: Roast the grapes and serve them on a cheese platter.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Red Globe grapes

Red Globe

Red Globe was first cultivated in the 1950s by a breeder at the University of California. This jumbo red variety is popular worldwide, especially as an after-dinner treat in Asia. The flesh is firm with few seeds, and the flavor is mild and not too tart.

In season: July through January

We recommend: Freeze Red Globe grapes and add to your favorite white wine or flavored seltzer.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Kyoho Grapes

Created by a Japanese viniculturist in the 1930s, dark purple Kyoho grapes resemble Concord grapes in shape, although they are slightly larger. Kyoho grapes have large seeds, and their skin separates from the flesh easily. (Because their skin is quite bitter, it’s usually removed before eating.) They’re a popular fruit in East Asia, attracting a huge fanbase with their sweet-tart red wine-like flavor and jelly-like texture.

In season: August and September

We recommend: A parfait with peeled Kyoho grapes, yogurt, and granola.

More Great Grapes to Try

Autumn Royal

First released in California in 1996, the Autumn Royal is a seedless hybrid of a variety of grapes, including Flame Seedless, Black Rose, and Calmeria. Larger than Thompson Seedless, these black juicy grapes are slightly oval with a thick skin, a crisp texture, and a flavor that’s reminiscent of a muscat, a floral, honey-scented white grape that’s often used to make dessert wines.

In season: Late September to mid-October

Crimson Seedless

Released in 1989, Crimson Seedless was the creation of the USDA Fruit Genetics and Breeding Research Unit. Grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley, this oval, light-red seedless grape is crisp and firm, with slightly chewy skin.

In season: October through November

Gum Drop

A relative newcomer, Gum Drop grapes were developed in 2015 by Grapery in Bakersfield, California. The grape variety got its name after taste-testers compared the flavor to gumdrops and gummy bears. True to its name, the Gum Drop is sweeter than your average table grape and has a fruit-forward finish. The oval, medium-sized seedless grapes have translucent flesh and smooth skins that come in purple, black, or red.

In season: Late summer to early fall.

We recommend: A flatbread topped with

gorgonzola

Holiday Red

Cultivated by Columbine Vineyards in 1926, these hefty gem-like round grapes are hand-harvested in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Holiday Red grapes are sweet and seedless, with thin, red skin, and a juicy, crisp texture.

In season: September to December

We recommend: Slice them and add them to chicken salad.

Valiant

Grape breeders at South Dakota State University came up with the Valiant variety in 1982, creating a hybrid that’s suitable to be grown in the colder northern regions of America. Valiant is a sweet-tart grape with a firm, jelly-like texture. Like the Concord grape, Valiant has seeds, and its thick, dark-blue skin is easily removed from the pulp. Valiant clusters are small — about the size of your hand.

In season: Late-August to mid-September

We recommend: Valiant jam-filled thumbprint cookies.

Thank you to Melissa’s, Baldor, and GrowNYC’s Greenmarket for help sourcing the grapes for this photo shoot.