Black seedless grapes may be round to slightly oval in shape. Their skin is deep purple to near black in color with an occasional waxy bloom on the surface. The skin is firm and does not slip from its flesh. The pulp is tender and less crunchy than most red or green table grapes. They are overtly juicy in texture with a sweet, grapey muscat flavor. Although Black seedless grapes are defined as seedless, occasionally they will contain one to two almost unrecognizable tiny, edible fleshy seeds.
There are multiple species of Black seedless grapes within the Vitus genus, including vinifera, labrusca, riparia, rupestris, and rotundifolia. Those most commonly grown for use as a table grape are Vitis vinifera and V. labrusca, or a hybrid of the two. Black seedless grapes are prized for their lush juicy pulp and highly aromatic skins that offer a pleasant chewiness. Some of the more notable varieties found on the market are Black Monukka, Summer Royal, Autumn Royal and Black Emerald.
Black seedless grapes contain significant amounts of vitamins A, C and K. Flavonoids within the grape’s skin, such as resveratrol, provide antioxidant qualities which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Black seedless grapes are most often eaten raw out-of-hand, but they also make excellent juice and raisins. They may be roasted and cooked down into sauces and jams, or frozen and whipped into an instant sorbet. The rich flavor and inherent sugar content of Black grape juice is a natural sweetener for fresh fruit cocktails. Complimentary flavors include, almond, pistachio, hazelnut, walnut, peanut, lemon, strawberry, raspberry, endive, arugula, fennel, rosemary, mint, yogurt, sour cream, crème fraiche, goat cheese, blue cheese, pork, duck and poultry. To store, place lightly washed grapes in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate.
The first ever seedless grape was a natural occurring European grape strain with origins between the Black and Caucasus Seas. A genetic abnormality causes the seeds to arrest development. This singular variety is the ancestor to all seedless grapes.
- Plant dormant, bare-root grape vines in the early spring.
- Construct a trellis or arbor before planting. Grape vines will need to be trained to some sort of support to grow upward. This will also cut the risk of disease.
- Most grape varieties are self-fertile. To be sure, ask when you are buying vines if you will need more than one plant for pollination.
- Before planting grapevines, soak their roots in water for two or three hours.
- Select a site with full sun. If you don’t have a spot with full sun, make sure it at least gets morning sun. A small amount of afternoon shade won’t hurt. Your soil needs to be deep, well-drained, and loose. You also need good air circulation.
- Space vines 6 to 10 feet apart (16 feet for muscadines).
- For each vine, dig a planting hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill with 4 inches of topsoil. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery. Cover the roots with 6 inches of soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don’t tamp this down.
- Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time.
- Water at time of planting.
- In the first couple of years, the vine should not be allowed to produce fruit. It needs to strengthen its root system before it can support the extra weight of fruit.
- Pruning is important. Not only would vines run rampant without control, but canes will only produce fruit once. Prune annually when vines are dormant, in March or April. This is before the buds start to swell, but when winter damage is apparent.
- Don’t be afraid to remove at least 90 percent of the previous season’s growth. This will ensure a higher quality product. Remember, the more you prune, the more grapes you will have.
- In the first year, cut back all buds except for 2 or 3. Then, select a couple of strong canes and cut back the rest. Make sure the remaining canes are fastened to the support.
- In the second year, prune back all canes. Leave a couple of buds on each of the arms. Remove flower clusters as they form.
- Do not fertilize in the first year unless you have problem soil. Fertilize lightly in the second year of growth.
- Use mulch to keep an even amount of moisture around the vines.
- A mesh net is useful in keeping birds away from budding fruit.
- If grapes aren’t ripening, pinch back some of the foliage to let in more sunlight.
- Grapes will not continue ripening once picked from the vine. Test a few to see if they are to your liking before harvesting, usually in late summer or early fall.
- Grapes are ripe and ready to harvest when they are rich in color, juicy, full-flavored, easily crushed but not shriveled, and plump. They should be tightly attached to the stems. Sample different grapes from different clusters, and the taste should be between sweet and tart.
- Grapes can be stored for up to six weeks in the cellar, but grapes can absorb the odors of other fruits and vegetables, so keep them separate. Use cardboard boxes or crates lined with clean, dry straw. Separate bunches with straw or sawdust. Check often for spoilage.
- See our article on making jams and jellies with fruit from your garden.