Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eat Local Grapes

Spit Away

The New York Times has an interesting story (reg. req.) today on the quest to create better tasting table grapes.
In the United States, convenience reigns, and in California, where 97 percent of American table grapes are grown, “neutral-flavored” grapes like Thompson and Flame, sweet but bland, dominate production, largely because they are seedless and hold up well to long-distance shipping.
The solution, it seems rests on finding new places to grow flowery Muscat grapes or try to cross-breed some flavor into the Cali grapes. Here's a third idea. Eat local grapes.

Today's article points out that our Concords have flavor, but notes it's not necessarily one worth remembering. It seems that Concords and similar grapes share a gene with certain glands from foxes and weasels, hence the term foxy to describe the grape's flavor. I do not believe it's the flavor the detracts from our grapes, nor the skins, which this article notes is thick and astringent and slips off the grape's soft flesh. What really inhibits a lot of eaters are the seeds. There's a lot of spitting going on when a local grape is eaten. Is that really so bad? No one needs a seedless cherry; I mean so-called seedless watermelon still have those white seeds. We can handle it, can't we.

I've read that certain Southern grapes like the Scuppernongs are more flavorful than our Concords. If that's true, I'm pretty happy with second place. Our local grapes exude character. Each grape acts Wonka-like, offering multiple flavors and textures (right down to those hard seeds). It's good eating. And we have them. At least in farmer's markets, they are easy to find. Caputo's, in Elmwood Park, also has some Concords, but theirs came from Canada of all places.

Local grape season will last for until early October. Buy a lot now. First of all, grapes stay long in the fridge. Second, they freeze wonderfully. Come winter you can have little grape sorbet balls for a snack.

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