There’s nothing like a beautiful pile of purple grapes. Plump and juicy, they are one of the most elegant fruits. Used to make wine, preserves, and juice, as well as eaten fresh from the vine, purple grapes are versatile and delicious.
It might surprise you to know that not all purple grapes are the same. There are thousands of varieties, all of them varying in hue, as well as flavor. They differ in purpose with some being exclusively used for wine and other varieties used as table grapes or preserves.
What sets purple grapes apart from green and white grapes? Keep reading to find out more about purple grapes, and what makes them so special.
Where Do They Come From
We tend to associate grapes with France and Italy, due to the number of wines they produce, or the Mediterranean because of the belief that they only do well in warm climates.
The fact is purple grapes can be found all over the world. From the Concord grape which is native to North America to Vitis quinquangularis Rehd of China. Other varieties of purple grape include Bluebelle grapes, Moon Drops, Autumn Royal, and Tempranillo.
Purple grapes differ from their green or white counterparts in the Resveratrol they contain in their skin along with Quercetin. This chemical combo makes them anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant powerhouses, and is also what gives them their beautiful pigment.
When cut open red grapes have the same pale green flesh as their green cousins. Wine made from purple grapes can be either white, red, or, rosé.
This is because of the varying winemaking techniques involved in producing the different categories of wine. Red wines are made by leaving the peel in the vat of crushed grapes, which is where it gets its color.
What Do They Taste Like?
Purple grapes have a range of flavors. From rich and sweet, like the Concord grape, to the slightly spicy Black Beauty grape. Grapes with seeds tend to have a richer flavor than the seedless varieties. The flavor of purple grapes is affected by the number of tannins, and various other nutrients contained in the skin of the grape.
Grapes that are picked at their peak harvest time have the fullest flavor, and in fact, the flavor is the main indicator of how close grapes are to being ready to harvest. Other indicators are the color of the vines and leaves.
Wine grapes are usually sweet varieties with thin fragile skin. They are picked based on when the tannins in their skins are optimum for whichever type of wine they are destined to be. Some are picked slightly unripe, while others are left longer.
Grapes for wine are also usually picked at night. Cooler nighttime temperatures keep the sugars in the grapes more stable, which will aid in the fermentation process. It also saves on the costs of having to cool the storage tanks to lower the temperature of the grapes.
How To Use Purple Grapes
Purple grapes, depending on the variety, are great for preserves and juice. Sweet grapes like Moon Drop grapes blend nicely with cheese and other savory flavors and look elegant served on a cheeseboard. Grapes, especially the thicker-skinned table varieties are good as a frozen snack.
There are many other ways purple grapes can be enjoyed. Their sweetness lends them to desserts, and also allows them to enhance savory dishes. We’ve included some recipes that use grapes either as the star, or a supporting player.
- Italian Fresh Purple Grape Cake
- Purple Grape and Rosemary Sorbet
- Concord Grape and Lemon Upside Down Cake
- Savory Grape Parmesan Salad
- Halibut with Balsamic Roasted Grapes
- Goat Cheese Appetizers with Roasted Grapes
- 3 Cheese Roasted Grape Pizza
- Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce
Try these recipes with any variety of purple grapes that you can get your hands on. Your local farmers market or orchard may have varieties of grapes that you don’t typically run across at the grocery store. There are dozens of wonderful varieties of purple grape that people don’t typically get an opportunity to try.
Where To Get Purple Grapes
You can find purple table grapes at your local grocery store, but to find some of the more interesting varieties of grapes might take some leg work. Moon Drop grapes, which were developed to have all the flavor of some of the less wildly available varieties, are sold at most grocery stores when in season, and you can occasionally find Concord Grapes.
If you are an expert at foraging, you can still find many varieties of grape growing wild in the woods of North America. Wild grapes are not as sweet as their domesticated counterparts, but most of them are edible.
The Concord grape is a hybrid of many of the wild grapes that were common in the woods of Massachusetts in the 19th century. Take care when foraging for wild fruit, as some toxic plans have a similar look to grapes.
A farmers market may have different varieties of grapes available, or you can make a visit to your local orchard. Some orchards not only grow fruit trees and pumpkins they also have grapevines. They either sell the grapes in their store or allow people to pick them.
You can check with a vineyard near you but most of them do not sell the grapes. Wine grapes do not necessarily make the best grapes for eating due to the high amounts of sugar.
You can, however, stop in and try some of those grapes in the form of wine. Red wines carry over the antioxidants and some of the anti-inflammatory properties of the grapes they were made from.
If you are not a wine drinker, many vineyards and wineries also have grape juice available, some have even begun carrying non-alcoholic wines.
The best way to access the purple grapes you may not be able to find elsewhere, is to grow them yourself.
Growing Your Own Purple Grapes
Grape growing sounds like a challenge, but it’s easier than it looks. Grapes don’t have to have warm humid air, in fact, many, especially the varieties that are native to North America, are very cold tolerant and do well in a mild climate. To start, figure out your zone, and search for the varieties that do best in your area.
Some of the grapes you might want to try include:
- Thomcord Grapes- A combination of the Thompson Seedless and the Concord, it has all the flavor of the Concord, without the seeds. It does best in zones 5-8.
- Buffalo Grapes- Great for juicing or as a table grape, the Buffalo grape has a distinctive spicy flavor. It grows best in zones 5-9.
- Price- A sweet grape, with a flavor reminiscent of the concord, sweet and a little bit earthy. Does well in zones 5-9.
- Valiant Grapes- This is a very cold hardy grape, which is a good table grape, and makes good preserves. Grows in zones 3-9.
- Schuyler Grapes- A dark-skinned grape that is great for eating. It is an early season grape that does well in zones 5-9.
After you decide on the type of grapes you want to grow, find a nursery that carries them. Look for reviews to make sure the nursery has a good reputation.
You want to focus on finding 1-year-old vines that are certified virus resistant. Some varieties of European grapes are more vulnerable to disease than their North American counterparts.
- Find an area of full sun.
- Soak the roots for 2-3 hours prior to planting.
- Plant your vines 12 inches deep.
- Make sure the soil drains well.
- Mulch will help keep the moisture even around the roots.
- Stake your vines to help them grow the direction you want them to.
- Make sure your vines have the support of a trellis, fence, or arbor to grow up.
- You can plant grapevines as part of a container garden, but make sure you use a large enough pot.
- Your grapevines should not need any fertilizer in the first year.
- Protect your young vines from rabbits and deer by covering them with mesh netting.
- Study the types of pests you will need to watch out for, these can vary by grape variety.
Purple Grape Fun Facts
- Botanically grapes are considered berries!
- One vine can produce 40 grape clusters.
- There are over 10,000 varieties of grapes and 800 species.
- Grapes increase levels of nitric acid in the blood, which can help prevent heart attacks.
- Botanical researchers believe that grapes are over 65 million years old!
There are plenty of reasons why you should eat more purple grapes. The amazing health benefits they provide, as well as the fact that we all need more fruit in our diets.
The most important reason is how delicious they are! So run out and get some, or better yet plant some! Not only will you have the satisfaction of growing your own fruit, but you will also add a beautiful touch to your backyard garden!