Grape time at your farmer’s market
BY DEBRA J. MORRIS
You have just found a new variety of table grape seed at your farmers market, not the usual seedless Thompson, but a nice deep Red Globe variety. Where you found the deep blue/black heritage Concord grape. You’ve just discovered one of the many reasons to shop at your local Certified Farmer’s Market – variety!
We celebrate certified farmers markets and the value they bring to your local community during National Farmers’ Market Week (August 7-13). In fact, we celebrate the whole month of August! The unique varieties of grapes and other fruits and vegetables you buy boost local economies, help preserve farmland, and improve access to healthy, nutritious food. Farmers markets also play a vital role in their communities by creating space for community connection and actively promoting more resilient and equitable local food systems.
What does it mean to be a Certified Farmers Market and why is it so important that you buy “certified”? In short, this means that the products are delivered to the market directly from the farm and from the producers themselves. In California, only California-grown produce can be certified for sale at our state’s farmers markets.
So when you find that single cluster of plump sweet grapes at your Certified Farmers Market, you know they’re locally grown in California and of high quality. There are many varieties of table grapes grown in California. The freshest and most interesting varieties are available at your farmer’s market, such as Red Flame, Autumn Royal, Concord Seeded, Pearl, Princess, Red Globe and many more.
Table grapes vs wine grapes
Have you ever wondered why you can’t bring those table grapes home and crush them into wine? Eating grapes is a little different from wine grapes. Table grapes come from different species and these differences can make good wine, but not good food.
The main distinction between serving grapes and those for wine production is the distinct characteristics of taste, acidity and sugar content.
The first difference between these two grape varieties is their thickness of skin. Table grapes have thin skins that are great for snacking on, but not ideal for making wine. When it comes to making good wine, especially red wine, a thicker skin is better, and that means more tannin. Tannins are what add texture and mouthfeel to wine.
Second, the sweetness of the grape is a very important characteristic. Wine grapes are much sweeter than table grapes. Grapes need a lot of sugar for the yeast to turn the juices into alcohol. Higher sweetness comes from the species itself, as well as the fact that the wine grapes are harvested much later in the season, allowing their sugars to concentrate as much as possible. Wine grapes are harvested at around 22-30% sugar, while table grapes are closer to 10-15% sugar. This also means that wine grapes spoil much faster when picked than grapes destined for the table.
Finally, the yield of wine grapes compared to table grapes is different. While a winemaker gets about ten pounds of fruit per vine, table grape growers use a trellis system that allows the bunches of grapes to hang down without touching, producing thirty pounds of fruit.
Stop by your local Certified Farmers Market this time of year and you’ll find mounds of locally grown, sweet table grapes glistening in the sun. Visit J&J Ramos Farms and Resendiz Farms, both in Hughson for grapes.