Thursday, January 29, 2009

The truth about grapes: Part 4 in the Produce Series

Completing my last of 4 segments on seasonal fruits and ripeness takes us into fall. Ah... Fall. It's my favorite season, mainly because in Texas, it doesn't really exist, so anything close to it is very much appreciated. Sweater weather... foliage... and grapes. That's right, grapes come into season in the fall, and so do apples and pears, but they stay in season throughout the early part of winter, so we've already covered them. I will offer you some more interesting factoids in a bit though.
With grapes, you want to choose firm fruit that doesn't look anywhere close to being shriveled. Check to see that it is firmly attached to the stems, and with green grapes, look for ones that have a more yellowish color. And you can always taste a grape in the store to check for sweetness. I know what you're thinking. "But Tricia. That's shoplifting! I read your post about pineapples and I'm scared someone will kick me in the shins for stealing a grape." But I'm pretty confident that if you ask the produce guy if its okay for you to taste a grape, he's going to say yes. And then when he turns around, he'll probably roll his eyes at the crazy paranoid person in the grape section of the produce department. Grapes, no matter what kind, naturally have a silvery-colored film on them called "bloom." It's a natural yeast and you'll see it on blueberries too. What's cool about bloom is that in northern California, there's so much of this natural yeast in the air from all of the grapes in vineyards that some bakeries don't even have to use commercial yeast in their breads! Crazy, right? It's a great factoid to share with a wine snob at your next cocktail party. For full effect, I suggest ending your rant with "So stick that in your car and park it!"
The only other major fruits that come into season in the fall are apples and pears, and we've already gone over those for winter, so here's some fun facts that you can tell people to make yourself sound less dumb.
There are somewhere between 4,000-8,000 varieties of apples. They cross pollinate with other apples pretty easily, so there are lots of varieties that just haven't been named yet.
Apples won't ripen any further after they are harvested, they'll just eventually get mealy.
It's very common for commercial apples (not Organic) to be put into very cold storage for up to a year before they show up in your grocery store. Yes, you read that correctly.
Fuji apples will always have 5 bumps on the bottom of them.
Honeycrisp apples are the greatest invention since velcro. Well, that last one is subject to opinion, but I'm a firm believer that its true.

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