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Grapes for all seasons

Grapes weren't always so available, but thanks to the overlapping growing seasons of different varieties, they're now in our markets all year long.

Although you may be most familiar with the green Thompson Seedless, there are hundreds of varieties with and without seeds and in several colors. Some are used mostly for wine (chardonnay) or raisins (muscat).

Since they must be picked when ripe, they are highly seasonal and perishable. (Florida table grapes are available in the spring.) Although table grapes can be similar, each has a distinct taste and texture.

For instance, the native American grapes called lambrusca _ black Concords, red Catawbas and green Niagaras and muscadines or scuppernongs _ have a "slip skin" that separates easily from the pulp, ideal for making juice or jelly. A more unusual variety showing up in stores are bunches of tiny red or black berries, called Corinth or champagne grapes or currants.

You also can have your pick of these more common varieties of table grapes in the fall harvest:

Green

Thompson Seedless: A light-green, oblong-shaped grape that is the most popular. It's sweet and juicy. June to November.

Calmeria: Called the "ladyfinger" because of its elongated, light frosted green and delicately sculptured berries, this seeded grape comes after Thompson. It tastes mild with a slight tang. October to February.

Red

Flame Seedless: This red grape is a relatively new grape, a cross that has become the second most popular in the country. Firm, crunchy. Mid-June to October.

Tokay: Also called "flame" Tokay for its brilliant, reddish-orange berries, it's used mostly for wine, but a small amount are sold fresh. Crisp, mild. September to October.

Ruby Seedless: It is brilliant red, firm with an above-average sweetness and freezes well. August to January.

Emperor: A winter holiday favorite because of its large, reddish-to-purplish clusters of seeded berries, very flavorful. Late September to February.

Red Globe: The large, lush bunches of fruit contain huge, plum-sized seeded berries that are used for eating and for decorating during the holiday season. They're mild, sweet and juicy. Good for decorating as well as eating. September to January.

Christmas Rose: Large and bright red berries mature early. An unusual grape, it can keep its flavor in storage and through the holiday season. They have a tart-sweet flavor. Mid-August to January.

Black

Ribier: These blue-black berries are very large and sweet. August to January.

_ Information from Better Homes & Gardens and Scripps Howard News Service was used in this report.

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