Grapes growing over an arbor are an enchanting sight. There’s a good reason many people choose to have their weddings at a vineyard.
Now for something equally enchanting. Take an ordinary grape. Now make it roundish, and as big as a large gumball. Now flavor it like the best cotton candy you’ve ever tasted. That’s a cotton candy grape.
These delicious green grapes are a favorite with adults and kids. They pop up in stores in early fall and sell out quickly. Want to know more about this grape pretending it’s candy? We’ve gathered up everything you’ve ever wanted to know! Keep reading to learn more.
Where Does It Come From?
The cotton candy grape is a fairly recent addition to the world of table grapes. It was created in a lab, but it’s not genetically modified. It is a hybrid of two other grape species. Developed by horticulturist David Cain and his colleagues at International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield CA, the Cotton Candy Grape is a blend of your typical green grape, and a grape similar to a Concord ( the exact grape is a secret).
The Cotton Candy Grape wasn’t developed to make kids eat more fruit. It was bred to bring the real grape experience back to the supermarket.
There are dozens of varieties of grapes in the world, but due to the fragility of many species when shipping, like the concord grape, grapes available in stores have been bred to withstand shipping and shelving. This has resulted in sturdy grapes all with a similar, slightly bland, flavor profile.
The Cotton Candy Grape has become so popular, the distributor responsible for producing it, has had to increase the number of acres devoted to the cotton candy grape.
What Do Cotton Candy Grapes Taste Like?
Cotton Candy Grapes taste like, well, cotton candy. This grape was bred specifically to be sweet, unlike the standard green table grape, V. vinifera. The cross-breeding of the two species of grape removed the tartness of V.vinifera, revealing the underlying sweetness. The addition of the second grape added in a vanilla-like undernote.
Don’t worry about treating yourself to too many Cotton Candy Grapes. Despite the name, they do not have huge amounts of sugar, and all the sweetness is natural.
How To Use Cotton Candy Grapes
Just sitting down with a bowl of Cotton Candy Grapes and enjoying them as a snack is a delicious idea. There are other ways you can enjoy your Cotton Candy Grapes if you’re feeling adventurous.
- Put them on a plate with some vegetables, cheese, and sausage and enjoy a small charcuterie.
- If you are a fan of fruit in your wine, freeze some Cotton Candy Grapes and add a few to your next glass of wine. This would also be tasty with sparkling water if you are not a wine drinker.
- If you are feeling experimental and you have an Instant Pot, you can experiment with making your own fresh grape juice.
- Slice them and add them to a salad.
There are other uses for this sweet grape that you may not have thought of. We don’t usually think of grapes as a fruit to cook with, but there are actually numerous recipes that call for grapes or have been altered to use grapes.
These recipes do not specifically call for Cotton Candy Grapes, but the sweetness of the grape would blend well and make an exceptional dish.
- Grape Salad
- Grape Sorbet
- Grape Clafoutis
- Harvest Grape and Olive Oil Cake
- Grape Muffins
- Chicken with Roasted Grapes and Shallots
- Sweet Roasted Grapes
- Grape Pie
If the time for Cotton Candy Grapes has passed or the stores have sold out, which is a common occurrence, but you want to give these recipes a try, you can use any kind of grape available at the store or better yet, see if your local farmers market carries any different varieties of grapes.
Where To Get Cotton Candy Grapes
Cotton Candy Grapes are only available for a few weeks out of the year. From about August to September you can find them in your local grocery store. If your local grocery doesn’t have them, check Sam’s Club, Costco, or Trader Joes. You need to pick them up the minute you see they’ve hit the shelves because they sell out quickly.
Cotton Candy Grapes are only available from one supplier, “The Grapery” in the US. Since they are only grown in one place and have a very specific harvest time you will need to wait until they are in season to try them.
How To Grow Cotton Candy Grapes
If you were thinking of starting a grape arbor to grow your own Cotton Candy Grapes, you will be disappointed. Cotton Candy grapes are a seedless variety which means they needed to be started in a test tube and planted from seedlings.
There is currently a patent on them, so cuttings are unavailable. Although grapes can be propagated from a vine, this is likely a losing proposition if you are attempting to use a vine from a bag of grapes from the store.
Grapes You Can Grow Instead
Just because you can’t grow Cotton Candy Grapes at home, doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own grapes at all. While they may not taste like cotton candy, there are other delicious grape varieties you can try. If you want to try them before you grow them, many of these varieties are available at farmers’ markets, or specialty stores.
- Marquis Grapes- These grow well in zones 5-8 and are cold hardy.
- Thomcord Grape- A purple grape that is heat tolerant, and does best in zones 5-9
- Candace Grapes- A red grape that stands out from the grocery store variety of table grapes. Grows in zones 5-8 and can withstand a harsh winter
- Lakemont grapes- A small green grape with a honeyish flavor. Grows in zones 5-8.
- Himrod Grapes- A green grape with a spicy cinnamon flavor. Hardy down to zone 5.
Grape varieties vary in size and in the way the vines grow. Their growing season may vary as well. Make sure before you start that you pick the grape variety that is right for your zone. Find a nursery in your area that is reputable.
If possible purchase vines that are certified virus-free. Try to find plants that are a year old. If you care for your grapes properly, they may give you fruit for as long as 30 years.
- Find out if you need more than one plant for pollination, most grapes will fertilize themselves, but not all of them. If you happen to get one that doesn’t you will end up with a beautiful vine and no grapes.
- Grapes prefer full sun, but as long as they at least get morning sun they will be fine.
- You will need a trellis or arbor to train your grapevines to climb. They can get heavy so make sure it’s sturdy.
- Soak the roots of your vines in water for 2-3 hours before planting.
- Leave 6-10 inches between your vines. Some varieties may require more.
- Your vine will need to be placed in a hole at least 12 inches deep. Tamp down the first 6 inches of dirt you use to fill in the hole, but do not tamp down the last 6 inches.
- After planting, give them a good drink of water.
- They should not need to be fertilized for the first year.
- Mulch will keep the moisture around the vines even.
- Take the leaves off the fruit when they are pea-sized.
- If you have limited space, you can plant your grapevines in a container. Make sure the container is sturdy and about 12-15 inches in diameter.
- Prune your grapes back each winter.
- Use mesh to protect your young vines from deer and rabbits.
The Farmers Almanac has more advice on how to grow grapes.
Cotton Candy Grape Fun Facts
The Cotton Candy Grape isn’t the only candy-flavored grape. Flavor Pops and Moon Drops are also candy-flavored and becoming more available.
There will most likely never be a Cotton Candy Grape Wine commercially available. The developers of the grape attempted it and described the flavor as a “flabby Chardonnay”.
Cotton Candy Grapes were a delicious accident. They were developed by horticulturists experimenting with different hybridizations to make more flavorful grapes.
It can take anywhere from 6-15 years to develop a new hybrid grape because of the difficult process of crossbreeding and ensuring the plants are successful.
Cotton Candy Grapes were originally test marketed at a high-end grocery store in California to see how well they would perform with the public. They have become so popular they now have a following.
The Cotton Candy Grape and the other new hybrids that are slowly being rolled out have made people fall in love with grapes again.
The next time you are at the grocery store, do not pass up the opportunity to give these grapes a chance. With fruit this delicious, who needs candy?