September 16, 2015

Cotton Candy grapes by The Grapery taste like, you guessed it, cotton candy.
International Fruit Genetics

Attention people who don’t like the way grapes taste but still want to eat grapes: You can now buy grapes that do not taste like grapes. It’s a relief, right? Because there are no other foods that don’t taste like grapes. So you have to buy grapes that don’t taste like grapes.

The Grapery, a grape producer founded in 1996, partnered with fruit breeder International Fruit Genetics to create better-tasting grapes. IFG isn’t genetically modifying the grapes. There is no cotton candy DNA (I’m being funny here) injected into the grapes or grape nucleotides getting flip-flopped in the lab and reinserted. IFG breeds the grapes to bring out different flavors, and those folks are pretty creative.

Flavors sold by the Grapery include Gum Drops, which taste like gummy candy in small-grape form. There are also Flavor Pops, which are released in small batches in various flavors so the Grapery can gauge consumers’ interest in the flavors. The reason I’m writing about grapes today is the Cotton Candy flavor, which the Grapery says “taste exactly like the pink spun-sugar treat you loved as a kid at the circus—and we mean exactly.” I have yet to find Cotton Candy grapes, so I can’t say if this claim is true. And I might be the wrong person to be blogging about this taste sensation because I am not a cotton-candy person; I am, however, a grape person—particularly when the grapes are crushed and fermented. (No crushed and fermented grapes were consumed during the writing of this blog entry.)


Fruits Unknown

Exotic fruits, like the bilimbi, are way more interesting to the author than designer grapes.
Lisa Munniksma

Back to my passive-aggressive opening paragraph, I am mocking these new grape flavors because there are so very many fruits that three-quarters of the world have never heard of that are—to me—so much more interesting than grapes bred to taste like a sugary novelty snack.

I am a founding member of The Grimal Grove, a tropical-fruit-tree plantation that’s being restored by The Growing Hope Initiative to become an edible community park and education center for sustainable projects in the Florida Keys. I volunteered there last winter to help with their restoration project and was introduced to fruits I’d never known before. At this 2-acre urban farm, there are more than 30 varieties of trees—some of which are the only example in the U.S. and others that are the only fruiting example in the U.S. I was introduced to the flavors of bilimbi (pictured above), soursop, miracle fruit, sapodilla and starfruit. I also learned about breadfruit, the ultra-rare nuaga sapote, jaboticaba with its fruit growing oddly on the trunk of the tree, and others. These are crazy-interesting fruits, and they’ve been around for a lot longer than we have.

I’d love for a fruit breeder like IFG to put its resources into linking up with an organization like The Grimal Grove to see how those trees can be adapted to grow in more of the U.S. so more people can experience these really diverse flavors. (While I’m making requests, I’d love for someone to develop an avocado tree that will produce in Kentucky, too, please.)


Get ‘Em While They’re Hot

If you’re intrigued by the funky-flavored grapes, it’s time to act. They are only available seasonally: July through October, depending on which flavor you’re reaching for. If you’re intrigued by the tropical fruits at The Grimal Grove, they love having visitors year-round! Now that we have the Jelly Belly equivalent of fruit growing in vineyards, I wonder how long it will be until someone starts making cinnamon and cookie-dough flavored grapes. Maybe we can soon buy them—multi-colored so we can tell the flavors apart—in multi-flavor packages with suggested flavor combos printed on the back. Jalapeño poppers, bottom of your shoe and fireworks are three flavors I’m voting for.

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