There are thousands of varieties of grapes grown all over the world, and the juicy edible berries yield an equally impressive number of culinary uses: wine, of course, but also spirits like grappa, delicate grapeseed oil, sweet dried raisins, and the tannic leaves, which are wonderful rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, spices, and dried fruits for classic dolma. Almost all of the grapes grown in the U.S. come from California, where they are harvested through the summer and into the fall. It’s at this time of year that we most enjoy table grapes fresh from the vine: concord grapes, with their jam-like sweetness; crisp champagne grapes; pale, sweet-tart Thompson seedless, juicy Red Flame grapes, and many others. Eat them out of hand or add them to salads, salsas, pies, jam—even cocktails.
HOW TO BUY
Look for plump, firm fruit; avoid soft or wrinkled specimens and limp-looking stems. Green grapes should have a slight yellowish tinge, and red grapes should appear bright crimson. The powdery bloom on dark purple grapes is a sign of freshness.
HOW TO STORE
Store unwashed grapes in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week.
HOW TO PREPARE
Wash grapes in cold water and pat dry. If they have seeds, cut in half and remove seed with the tip of a paring knife. To slice a number of grapes in half at once, place them between two plastic lids and slice horizontally with a sharp knife.