As summer winds down and apricots and cherries have left the market for the season, we’re gearing up for apple picking season. But apples aren’t the only fall fruit we have in our tote bags. If you’re lucky enough to find farm-fresh grapes at your local farmers’ market, you’ll want to snag yourself a bunch. We chatted with experts to see if grapes are good for you, the health benefits of grapes, and all the details about picking and cooking with the surprising seasonal produce.
Grapes are packed with fiber, B vitamins, potassium, vitamin K and antioxidants, says Catherine Perez, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based R.D. blog. The full breakdown of 100 grams (about ¾ of a cup) of red or green, seedless grapes includes:
- Calories: 69
- Protein: 1 g
- Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 18 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Sugars: 15.5 g
Health benefits of grapes
You may be familiar with the health benefits of wine (like this new research that suggests red wine can help prevent type 2 diabetes), but grapes themselves have a lot to bring to the table as well.
They encourage a healthy weight and blood sugar.
Research suggests grapes had a positive effect on blood sugar levels due to their glycemic index.
They can boost heart health.
“Grapes are particularly high in anthocyanins and resveratrol, powerful antioxidants associated with lowering the risk for heart disease,” Perez says. “Because of the antioxidants and presence of potassium, they may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.”
They have anti-cancerous properties.
Perez notes the same antioxidants, anthocyanin and resveratrol, are associated with lowering the risk for cancer.
They boost your immune system.
Again, those antioxidants come into play. Grapes have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are ideal for keeping your immune system strong during the early months of flu season.
They keep your gut on track.
The fruit is packed with fiber and water, so they’re often a common food to relieve constipation.
They can protect your eyes.
Research suggests that grapes can protect your retina’s structure and function, making them great at promoting eye health.
Types of grapes
There are hundreds of grape varieties out there, but the ones you’ll usually see at the supermarket are thick-skinned and heartier, says Alison Cayne, founder and CEO of Haven’s Kitchen, a former event space for culinary classes that now sells globally-inspired sauces. This may be because many varieties are used for wine-making and are too tart to be eaten as a fruit, they’re difficult to grow in many parts of the country, and are often very delicate to ship, says Debra Moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets in Washington D.C.
In stores, you’ll likely find the standard black, red, and green grapes, says Brian Contreras, chef and Miraval Resorts and Spas’ director of culinary experiences. Green varieties are “punchier”, consumed raw, and have high acidity. Red and black grapes tend to have more sugar content when picked ripe and provide a more mellow, less acidic bite. They’re also a little more versatile beyond snacking, Contreras adds.
At your farmers’ market you may see a variety called table grapes or a few specific types of these, says Juliet Glass, director of communications at FRESHFARM, a non-profit that operates producer-only farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic region. “I love farmers’ market grapes. They are a totally different experience from supermarket grapes. They have more complicated flavors,” she says. Though not every market will offer the same varieties, she suggests some common varieties found in the mid-Atlantic to try including:
- Niagara Grape: These table grapes are round, sometimes green or pink. They’re often unseeded and are sweet and delicious. You’ll notice they’re smaller and rounder than supermarket grapes with a floral aroma and a more complex flavor.
- Concord Grapes: Often unseeded grapes with a thick skin and very sour exterior that protects a sweet, juicy flesh. These grapes are dark purple with green flesh. “It’s a whole taste journey,” she says.
- Canadice Grape: These red grapes are similar to those found in many supermarkets, but with a more nuanced flavor. They’re often seedless, delicious, and great cooked.
How to select and store grapes
Even though you can find grapes at your local grocery store year-round, they actually have a season that’s ideal for harvesting them. “It depends on the climate, but generally, late summer and early fall,” Cayne says.
If buying from the supermarket, Cayne suggests looking for harder, crunchier-looking grapes that aren’t shriveled. Plus, she typically opts for organic varieties because conventionally grown grapes can get a lot of pesticides sprayed on them.
And when early fall comes around, if you have a local farmers’ market you should definitely keep an eye out for grapes. These varieties tend to be very different from what you’d see in grocery stores and are a little more fragile and delicious, Cayne notes.
“They aren’t out for a long time, but when they are, boy, are they delicious and sweet and so much fun to eat,” Moser says.
Glass adds that farmers’ market grapes will likely be labeled as seeded or unseeded, but she encourages trying both kids. “Don’t be deterred by the seed. They sometimes have a tastier fruit. Sometimes you make a little sacrifice with seeds for better flavor,” she says. Store any grapes in your fridge for up to two weeks for ideal flavor and texture.
How to use grapes
- Pickle them. Contreras says red and black grapes are ideal for pickling, which can be used in salad, sandwiches, or snacked on.
- Freeze them. Kids love a frozen grape when the weather is still warm, Cayne says.
- Char them. Give the grapes a good char (either on the stovetop, in the oven, or with a culinary torch) and serve them with heartier dishes in the fall, Contreras suggests. “It lightens up the dish while also contributing body,” he says.
- Make a salad. Cayne chops up grapes into a Waldorf salad with chicken, lettuce, walnuts, apples, grapes, and creamy dressing.
- Slice into a sandwich. Dice them up into a chickpea salad sandwich for a sweet and savory mix, Perez suggests.
- Put them on a cheese board. A fun evening of charcuterie and cheese can easily be taken up a notch with some fresh table grapes, Glass suggests.
- Roast them. Cooking grapes this way helps to concentrate flavors and brings a whole new dimension to the fruit. Try this Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Red Grapes and Cabbage or Glass suggests roasting them with sausage on a try for a sheet-pan meal.
- Turn them into a spread. Make grapes into a jelly or jam, especially the concord grape variety, Moser suggests.
Arielle Weg is the associate editor at Prevention and loves to share her favorite wellness and nutrition obsessions. She previously managed content at The Vitamin Shoppe, and her work has also appeared in Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Cooking Light, MyRecipes, and more. You can usually find her taking an online workout class or making a mess in the kitchen, creating something delicious she found in her cookbook collection or saved on Instagram.