What does autumn smell like? For people like me who live near Concord grape vineyards, fall officially begins when these classic purple grapes release their sweet fragrance. Many Washingtonians are surprised to learn that our state is the nation’s leading producer of Concord grape juice with over 21,000 acres of Concord grape vineyards.
Trent Ball, an agriculture instructor at Yakima Valley College, says that in 2016, Washington produced over 194,000 tons of Concord grapes, of which about 11,200 tons were organic. These deep purple grapes have thick, sour “slip skins” which separate from the pulp and a juicy, sweet interior. The aromatic grapes, harvested September through late October, contain a high number of polyphenols providing many health benefits.
Adding purple to your diet is a delicious way to improve heart health. Concord grapes found primarily in grape juice and grape jellies and jams make these products rich in nutrients and antioxidants. A recent study published in Nutrients indicates a “clear relationship between consumption of even modest serving sizes of Concord grape juice, flavonoid intake, and effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
Other benefits abound: Research suggests that Concord grapes promote healthy circulation and contain various health-protecting antioxidants including resveratrol and flavonoids. These contribute to heart health in reducing the risk of blood clots and low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, as well as maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Not only are grapes heart-healthy, but research indicates Concord grapes influence cognitive health since the polyphenols in Concord grapes help support flexible arteries, which may promote healthy blood flow to the brain. Additional studies indicate that a diet rich in antioxidants, such as those found in fruits and their juices, can slow and possibly reverse age-related cognitive decline.
It’s easy to add some purple to your diet. Concord grape juice—100 percent juice, with no added sugar—is available in grocery stores. It’s yummy by itself or when added to various recipes. Make a smoothie by combining Concord grape juice with yogurt and a banana. Or freeze the juice in ice-cube trays and add it to a glass of water for sweetness and flavor.
Concord jelly and preserves are scrumptious paired with peanut butter on toast or topping pancakes. Eating a handful of the sweet fruit provides the same health benefits as juice but with added dietary fiber. Look for delectable Concord grape pies at local farmers.
Concord grapes promote healthy circulation and improve your cognition and mood. If you are in a region where these powerful purple grapes grow, try to get a taste of them while they’re fresh this fall. If you miss the harvest, you’ll find plenty of products like grape juice and jelly so you can enjoy the delicious flavor and reap the benefits of Concord grapes all year.
Nancy J. Schaaf is a retired registered nurse and educator. Her articles have been published in numerous national magazines. Nancy enjoys writing, traveling, riding motorcycles, and exercise classes.
Concord Grape Pie from Home in the Finger Lakes by Jennifer Morrisey
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1-hour
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- 1 recipe or your favorite double crust pie dough prepared
- 1 1/2 lbs. of Concord grapes (after removing from stems)
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (6.0 oz) sugar
- 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll one half of a double crust pie dough into a 15-inch round. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing it into the edges. Trim to a 1-inch overhang all around. Cover with plastic wrap; chill pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat process for rolling out dough for the top crust. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pie.
- Wash grapes and discard any that are under-ripe, damaged, and blemished.
- Remove the skins from the grapes by pressing them between your thumb and forefinger. Put the skinless grapes in a medium saucepan. Reserve the skins in a small bowl.
- Gently mash the grape pulp in the medium saucepan to release their juice. Cook over medium- low heat until grapes come to a full boil, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Press the grapes through a fine sieve and discard the pits.
- In a heavy bottomed pot: Combine the grape pulp, grape peels, and all the remaining ingredients. (You’ll have about 1 1/3 cups of pulp – add everything else and you’ll have about 2 cups.) Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring continually until the filling is slightly thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven with a pizza stone or baking sheet on it.
- Transfer the cooked filling to the prepared pie shell. Moisten the edges of the pie crust with water and attach the top crust, crimping the edges to seal the crust.
- Cut six small slits in the crust to act as vents. Place pie on the pizza stone, protect the edges with a pie ring, and bake for 30 minutes at 400° F and then reduce heat to 375° F and bake an additional 25-30 minutes until the filling is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before cutting.
For additional recipes and ideas on using grapes, click the “more” tab at grapesociety.org.
Find more of Jennifer’s recipes at Homeinthefingerlakes.com
Concord grape juice nutrition
- One 8 oz glass of Concord grape juice contains:
- 250 mg of polyphenols
- 100% RDA of Vitamin C
- 2 servings of fruit
- 40 or more Concord grapes