Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes (with seeds.) Best eaten fresh or preserved for jam/jelly.

Season: Early Fall

If you have never had fresh concord grapes, you are in for a treat. These anti-oxidant packed fruits are super tasty and very healthy for you.

I remember the first time I had one. I struggled with the seeds. Don’t bite into it like you would a seedless grape. You want to put the grape in your mouth and use your tongue to squeeze the grape up against your front teeth. You will then push the seeds out of the grape using your tongue to push the seeds between your top and bottom teeth. Spit the seeds out and repeat.

Grape Production in Northeast Ohio

These grapes came from South River Vineyard and Debonne Vineyard, both in Geneva, OH. The Geneva area has historically been a major producer of concord grapes for the juice market. For generations, family farms have grown grapes for Welch’s and other juice makers.

Why is Geneva such a good place for grapes? Most folks guess the soil. That’s not it. The soils are actually pretty heavy in clay and don’t drain all that well. Concords are a native grape to eastern North America. So are Catawba and Niagra grapes. All three are considered “labrusca” grapes. Old world, native European grapes are called vinifera, including merlot, cabernet, etc.

Concords grow best in the eastern US where there is 4 seasons. However, for agricultural reasons, a predictable climate is best for growing these grapes. Geneva has a unique micro-climate because of the Lake.

Lake Erie retains the sun’s energy even as cold fronts move in or as the nights get cool. This is important on two ends of the season. In the spring, exceptionally warm days can cause the buds to appear early. In this scenario, if a cold front moves in, the buds will be burnt off and no grapes will grow. Besides the lake moderating the temperatures near the coast, it also acts as a low laying area where cold air sinks down to the lake. It won’t sit over the land. Similarly, in the fall, the lake is still warm as the nights get cool. This means that the areas near the lake might be just a few degrees warmer than areas south. This makes a big difference when you need just a few more days to ripen the grapes.
The moderate temperature means that the grapes take longer to ripen. As the days get cool, the plant makes sugars to protect against freezing. More sugars mean more flavor!

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