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Stored Fresh

Apart from the obvious of making raisins from grapes. Grapes can be stored for several months. In Victorian England, grapes kept for many months without refrigeration using an ingenious "pre-technology" method. Instead of cutting the cluster from the vine, the whole shoot was cut off several inches on either side of the cluster. The shoot was then inserted into a wine bottle with a bit of charcoal to keep the water fresh, and the bottles placed in a rack at an angle in a cool, windowless brick or stone shed. This let the fruit "keep" as though still on the vine. The cluster stem stayed green and alive and the fruit hung free where air circulation reduced the chances of spoilage. This doesn't work for every variety perfectly but will extend the shelf life of all. "Lakemont" is a good variety that will keep at least 6 months.

A method for storing fresh grapes that pre-dates Christ, using these same basic principles was to hang clusters by their stems in a cave, where they would keep for several months. Some records suggest fruit could keep as long as six months this way.

Traits of Good Storers.

  1. Berries are tight to the stems. Some grapes, particularly American Lubrusca types, often have a tendency to "shell" off the clusters, because of weak attachment between the stem and berry.
  2. The berries don't crack readily. Varieties that crack easily during ripening usually spoil in storage. One variety known for this trait to crack is "Golden Muscat".
  3. Firm, meaty types with fairly tough, cling skins generally keep better than soft, slipskin types. Varieties like: Himrod, Interlaken, and Lakemont are good varieties in increasing order. Seeded Canandaigua is also a good variety.

Guidelines for Good Storage.

  1. When harvesting, clip the stems carefully and lay the clusters in a shallow box rather than piling them deep in a bucket. Piled too deep, the weight may crush or damage the fruit.
  2. Before storing, remove any spoiled berries by clipping the stem off the cluster. Pulling off berries leaves a wet "brush" that becomes a site for infection.
  3. Inspect regularly and remove anything showing signs of spoilage.

Source: California Rare Fruit Growers, July/August issue.
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