How to Eat a Concord Grape

You are used to table grapes, seedless, of course, with edible thin skins.

Concord grapes are another animal altogether. Last year we went on a vacation to see relatives in upstate NY and Canada. My father-in-law Joe is a farmer/rancher, who now raises beef cattle and who ran a dairy for many years. So my Aunt Lorna arranged for him to visit a local grape farmer and see his huge mechanical harvester.

Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes

Proprietor of Butternut Hollow/Deakin Farms is none other than Jim Deakin, a good friend of my Aunt’s and my two other favorite English teachers on this planet, Joan and Margaret. He played host to us and our guests and showed us all the equipment that helps him and his crew grow and pick grapes. We thank him for his kindness and hospitality.

The boys 1/4 mile away (next door, where we lived) taught me at the age of eight the proper way to eat a Concord grape. Take the grape and squeeze the insides between your lips, discarding the thick skin. Suck the pulp in through clenched teeth. Two or three seeds will remain outside and should be properly spat upon the ground of the vineyard you are legally picking from. Swallow the pristine pulp.

We lived next to a vineyard for three years from my age 8-10 and were told we could eat all the grapes we wanted but if the Conti brothers, the owners, ever caught us having grape fights we’d be forbidden access. Every day en route to and from the school bus hut in September and October I’d eat at least eight bunches per day! Even now, as I can’t pick them fresh in Texas, I sometimes buy a bottle of Welch’s white grape juice just to remember the taste.

Perhaps I’ll find you an Italian recipe I had in cooking school south of Florence, Italy. It was grape-picking season and at harvest time they make schiacciata a’l uvo, sort of a sweet grape pizza with wine grapes in their skins and their seeds, strewn with sugar. It’s tasty but you can only order it in restaurants in the fall.

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18 responses to “How to Eat a Concord Grape

  1. Concord grapes are mainly used in juices and grape jelly, also my home town was host to a winery which makes kosher wine from Concords.

    Chautauqua is the home of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). When alcohol was banned from the US Chautauqua County, with the most grapes per acre anywhere in the US, was forced to replace its vinifera grapes with table grapes.

    Years later when wine enthusiasts wanted to take advantage of Chautauqua’s unique and very brief growing season they grafted vinifera grapes onto Concord rootstock. The upshot is that NY didn’t get the phylloxera virus prevalent in Napa simply because the ancient Concord rootstock is too hardy.

    Just a little tidbit of extra knowledge… D

  2. Messed up on that one, its Schiacciata con a’l uva. Kind of a sweet grape pizza with seeds.

  3. heavenlygardens

    What a great way to separate the seeds from the pulp! I never thought of that. When I was a child, we were taught to squeeze the skin enough to let the pulp start to pop through, then suck the pulp out, chew the pulp, spit out the seeds, and then eat the skin, which tasted quite intense. I like your method of separating the seeds from the pulp far better and shall try it tomorrow when we pick the rest of our Concords. I’m looking forward to your Schiacciata con a’l uva recipe. Sounds tasty.

  4. One of the people responsible for developing those grape varieties you spoke about was Gary Woodbury, a former chemistry teacher at FHS and owner of Woodbury fruit farms. Welch’s didn’t always treat local farmers well, and having other options became desireable. He and my dad (and others?) ran experiments with lots of strangely-named grapes and made wine for years. I remember wathcing the tastings at dinner: uncork it, talk about it for a half an hour, and then grimace and spit when it was horrible. Several worked out well though, and Gary left teaching to become a vintner for a while as the operation grew. They had a spumanti and a champagne that was pretty good, and western NY State is on the map in the world of wine. Gary now lives in Florida and he and his wife, Robin, are still close friends with my parents, who are snowbirds from Maine part of the year. They get together in Maine for lobster, and in Florida for outdoor cooking parties.

  5. This little post was a godsend. When I put the first grape in my mouth and blanched at the bitterness of the skin, I almost got rid of the whole bunch.

  6. You can eat the skin though right? I always have! I don’t mind its sour taste

  7. I guess I’ve always been eating concord grapes without any proper technique. I tried it with your directions and it does make it easier. Thanks!

  8. I grew up in Minnesota, and our neighbors had concord grapes on an arbor next to our house. We kids would put the whole thing in our mouths, suck in it till the inside popped out (just a microsecond) then suck on the skin for all the good taste that still adhered to the skin’s inside, then swallow the fruit, seeds and all and spit out the skin. I still eat them that way today.

    • Again, it all depends on pesticides. One would hope your neighbor with the arbor does not use toxic ones, or any if they’re lucky. Thanks for the comment! Dee

    • I live in Rochester, NY and Naples is a stone throw which is where these grapes are grown. We were brought up to not make it a big deal and eat them the same way as you do. 3/4 of time, we would also eat the skin. I’m almost 50 now, didnt worry about pesticides, and to date, have never had cancer. In fact, back in the day, most people would go berry picking, fruit picking, and eat the frtui unwashed. The rain Mother Nature supplies was good enough for us.

  9. I bet that dark skin has a lot of anti oxident power. I eat the whole thing seeds, skin and all.

  10. I’m sure it does. Two things, as I think of how I ate them as a kid, right off the vine and I know that they used pesticides, I’d look for organically grown grapes. But since Concord grapes are either not popular across the country or don’t travel well, usually locals know where to find them. Today, I’d definitely put off that desire for immediate gratification, go home, and rinse them! Otherwise I always found the skins a bit leathery, Dee

  11. I live in NE TX, and planted two Concord vines three years ago. This is my first year for harvest, and I have enough grapes on the vines to feed myself, neighbors, and anyone else that might like a treat. They are just beginning to get ripe, and are really delicious. The grape skin and the seeds are the most powerful part of the grape anti-oxidant wise. I put mine into my daily green drink blender, which is powerful enough to liquify the skins and seeds. I toast all grape lovers to good health!

    • My only question is about the skin as when I was growing up they used heavy chemicals to avoid bugs and rot. I love Concord grapes and can’t believe you can grow them in NE TX

  12. @Rusty Park — Congratulations! I’ve been eating Concords — in NY and Pennsylvania — skin and all, for at least 60 years. We planted our two vines in western Washington in 2009. Last year and this year we’ve had bumper crops. Western Concords don’t have as much pectin as Eastern Concords, so it takes a bit more effort for the pectin in the jam to gell properly.

    I haven’t found any need for pesticides. We all eat them from the underside of the arbor to avoid bird poop, and a quick rinse is all that’s necessary. Commercial growers might find it necessary to use pesticides. Our two vines attract more racoons, possums, squirrels, and birds than bugs.

    Oh yes, the kids find the seeds perfect for contests and craft projects.

    • I think spitting the seeds is what we did back then in the pesticide days, after slipping/removing the skins. They were using awful drugs for pregnant women here in the US, that caused birth defects, and napalm in Vietnam at the time. I appreciate that my home state has gone back to winemaking in tune with the harsh weather. After seeing vineyards in Italy and cultivation techniques I agree that pesticides are not necessary. Thanks for your kind contribution. Dee

  13. Concord ripens too late to be grown in the UK, but there are varieties bred from it and similar varieties that have a similar flavour and some improvements too.
    Some of these grow well in the UK too, and there are also hardier varieties that would do well in colder areas of the US.
    Trollhaugen, Mars and Venus spring to mind, all with a similar flavour to Concord, ripening early, pest and disease free and also SEEDLESS.
    These and Concord are bred from the native American grape Vitis labrusca crosses with the European grape Vitis vinifera (the grape you buy in stores and is made into wine).

    My first experience of Concord was through Welches and I loved the strange, intense flavour. I’m growing many of these Concord-like varieties here in England now.

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