Eating with the season: Concord grapes

You may have had Concord grape jelly or juice, but have you ever tasted the grape itself?

Perhaps you’ve just never noticed them in your supermarket, or selected the more common seedless red or green kind instead.

But Concord grapes are really in a class by themselves. One of only three fruits native to North America, this variety is really the perfect “grape,” both flavor-wise and for its health benefits.

While grapes have been cultivated for millennia, as indicated by how closely they’re associated with the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Concord grape is an especially healthy, hardy and tasty variety that dates back to the mid-19th Century.

And while they’re  grown a lot in locales like Washington state and upstate New York, the Concord grape originally came from the place it was named after—Concord, Mass., where a farmer named Ephraim Wales Bull began growing it after experimenting with all kinds of native species and thousands of seedlings.

(And that Concord grape juice, by the way, is something that was “invented” here in South Jersey – by a dentist named Dr. Thomas Welch and his family, right in their kitchen.)

The great thing about these juicy little purple spheres is that they pack a whole bunch of health benefits – including the antioxidants called polyphenols that keep free radicals from damaging healthy cells and offer protection against heart attacks, stroke and cancer.

Besides lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, keeping arteries flexible and helping to support the immune system, Concord grapes were shown in a 2010 study to inhibit a process called angiogenesis, which promotes the growth of new blood vessels that can help cancers grow and metastasize.

While most Concords are used to make juice (something that appears to have all of the heart-healthy benefits of red wine) fresh bunches of these beautiful grapes should also be turning up at your local supermarket or farm stand this time of year.

So if you can get some fresh Concord grapes in your neck of the woods, absolutely give them a try.

I think you’ll be surprised at what this true blue American grape tastes like!

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