Grape vines are among the oldest cultivated plants.

The Best Grapes to Grow for Eating

by Brian Barth

Grapes (Vitis spp.) are produced on long-lived vines with a highly ornamental growth habit. Both American and European varieties are available to grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. Some are grown primarily for wine making, while the table grapes are for eating fresh. Table grapes offer a tremendous range of attributes, including color, flavor and regional adaptability. They can be grouped into broad categories, and a few of "the best" picked from each.

1. Seedless European Varieties

European varieties thrive mainly in the Western United States. "Flame Seedless" is among the most popular of the red grapes. The grapes are small, crisp, and round. They ripen in July, much earlier than most other varieties. "Thompson Seedless" is a green table grape that bears small, elliptical fruit on very large clusters. They ripen in mid-August, and are also commonly used to make raisins. "Autumn Royal" is a blue grape with particularly large, pointed fruit. They ripen later than most grapes, and are among the easiest varieties to grow.

2. Seeded European Varieties

"Red Globe" is a seeded variety with very large, spherical grapes. They need an extremely long, dry growing season, and are primarily adapted to California. "Muscat of Alexandria" is a highly aromatic yellow-green grape and is one of the oldest varieties. The fruit size is small, but they are among the most highly flavored dessert varieties. They ripen in September. "Muscat of Hamburg" is similar, but dark in color. It ripens in October.

3. Concords

"Concord" grapes are an American grape that is particularly adapted to growing in the eastern United States. Unlike European varieties, Concords have a tough skin that is normally discarded. Concords are large, seeded, dark-colored grapes that ripen throughout late summer or fall. They are tolerant of cool, humid growing conditions, and rarely suffer from pests or diseases. Concords and other American grapes are highly aromatic and more intensely flavored than their European cousins. They can be used to make grape juice, but they are commonly consumed as dessert grapes.

4. Muscadines

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are native to the Southeastern United States. The varieties derived from this species are by far the best choice for growing in the hot, humid conditions of the South. Like Concords, they have a tough outer skin that is slipped off to eat the tasty inner fruit. Unlike other grapes, muscadines are not always self-fertile, so multiple varieties must be planted to ensure pollination and fruit set. Scuppernongs are are a type of muscadine with bronze skin.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

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