The Enchanting World of Cotton Candy Grapes

Grapes growing over an arbor evoke a captivating sight. It’s no wonder many choose vineyards as the backdrop for their special occasions. If you thought grapes couldn’t get any more enchanting, think again. Imagine an ordinary grape transformed into a round, gumball-sized treat with the delightful flavor of the best cotton candy you’ve ever tasted. That’s the magic of cotton candy grapes.

These delicious green grapes have won the hearts of both adults and children. They make their appearance in stores during the early fall, creating a frenzy among shoppers. Intrigued to know more about this grape that masquerades as candy? Get ready to discover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cotton candy grapes!

A bowl of cotton candy grapes.

Where Does It Come From?

The story of cotton candy grapes begins in a laboratory, but rest assured, they are not genetically modified. The brainchild of horticulturist David Cain and his colleagues at International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield, California, these grapes are a hybrid of two other grape species. While the exact identity of one of the parent grapes remains a secret, the cotton candy grape combines the qualities of a typical green grape with the essence of a Concord grape.

Unlike many new cultivars created to entice children into eating more fruit, the cotton candy grape aims to bring back the true essence of a grape to the supermarket. The abundant varieties of grapes in the world have been largely overshadowed in stores by sturdier breeds that withstand long journeys and extended shelf life. This has resulted in uniform yet slightly bland flavors dominating the market. However, the popularity of cotton candy grapes has forced their distributor to devote more acres to their cultivation.

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What Do Cotton Candy Grapes Taste Like?

Cotton candy grapes taste exactly like their name suggests – cotton candy! Unlike the standard green table grape, these grapes were specifically bred to be sweet. Through crossbreeding, the tartness of V. vinifera grapes was eliminated, revealing their natural sweetness. Additionally, the addition of a second grape species contributes a subtle hint of vanilla to the flavor profile. Don’t worry about indulging in these sweet treats, as the sugar content remains within a reasonable range, entirely natural and not excessive.

How To Use Cotton Candy Grapes

The simplest and most delightful way to enjoy cotton candy grapes is by grabbing a bowl full and savoring them as a snack. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, there are many other creative ways to incorporate them into your culinary endeavors:

  • Create a small charcuterie board with cotton candy grapes, vegetables, cheese, and sausage for an exciting flavor combination.
  • Freeze some cotton candy grapes and add them to your favorite glass of wine for a fruity twist. Sparkling water can be a delightful alternative if you’re not a wine enthusiast.
  • If you’re an Instant Pot aficionado, experiment with making your own fresh grape juice using cotton candy grapes.
  • Slice them and use them as a unique addition to your salads.

While cotton candy grapes can be enjoyed in various ways, they can also be used as substitutes in recipes that call for regular grapes. The sweetness of these grapes can take the taste of the dish to a whole new level. Consider trying out grape salad, grape sorbet, grape clafoutis, harvest grape and olive oil cake, chicken with roasted grapes and shallots, sweet roasted grapes, or even grape pie. If you can’t find cotton candy grapes, any other grape variety available in stores or at your local farmers market will suffice.

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Where To Get Cotton Candy Grapes

Cotton candy grapes are only available for a limited time each year, usually from August to September. You can find them in select grocery stores, but they tend to sell out quickly. If your local grocery store doesn’t stock them, try checking out Sam’s Club, Costco, or Trader Joe’s. Since cotton candy grapes are cultivated exclusively by “The Grapery” in the US, their availability is limited to the specific harvest season.

Large batch of Cotton Candy Grapes.

How To Grow Cotton Candy Grapes

If you’ve ever considered growing your own cotton candy grapes, here’s a reality check. These grapes are seedless and can only be propagated through planting seedlings developed in a lab. Additionally, there is a patent on these grapes, making cuttings unavailable for cultivation. While grapes can be propagated from a vine, starting with a bag of grapes from the store is not a viable option.

However, if you’re interested in growing grapes in general, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Choose the grape variety that suits your climate and growing conditions.
  • Purchase virus-free grape vines from a reputable nursery. Look for year-old plants.
  • Determine if your chosen grape variety requires cross-pollination or can self-fertilize.
  • Ensure your grapevines receive at least morning sun or full sun.
  • Provide a sturdy trellis or arbor for the vines to climb and support their weight.
  • Before planting, soak the roots of your vines in water for a few hours.
  • Space your vines 6-10 inches apart or as per the variety’s requirements.
  • Dig a hole at least 12 inches deep and fill it with soil, leaving the top few inches loose.
  • After planting, water your vines thoroughly.
  • Fertilization is generally not necessary during the first year.
  • Applying mulch around the vines helps retain moisture.
  • Remove leaves when the grapes reach pea size.
  • For limited space, consider planting grapevines in containers with a diameter of 12-15 inches.
  • Prune your grapes during the winter.
  • Protect young vines from deer and rabbits using mesh or appropriate barriers.
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For more comprehensive advice on growing grapes, consult resources such as the Farmers’ Almanac.

Cotton Candy Grape Fun Facts

Cotton candy grapes are not the only candy-flavored grape variety available. Flavor Pops and Moon Drops, among others, offer similar indulgence and are increasingly accessible. However, commercial availability of cotton candy grape wine remains unlikely, as early attempts to produce it resulted in a disappointing “flabby Chardonnay” flavor.

Interestingly, cotton candy grapes were accidentally discovered during horticulturists’ experiments to develop more flavorful grape hybrids. The lengthy process of crossbreeding and ensuring successful plants can take anywhere from 6 to 15 years. These grapes were initially test marketed at a high-end grocery store in California and have since gained a dedicated following. Cotton candy grapes, along with other new hybrid varieties, have rejuvenated people’s love for grapes.

So, the next time you spot cotton candy grapes in your grocery store, seize the opportunity to try these delightful treats. With their irresistible flavor, who needs candy? For more grape-related content, venture into the world of grape vines, where you can discover growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!

Excited for all things grapes? Visit the Ames Farm Center for an extensive grape-growing experience!