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Sweet, juicy grapes, picked a the peak of ripeness, are one of nature's best-tasting treats. In vineyards, greenhouses, and laboratories, ARS scientists seek to bring even better grapes to your shopping cart tomorrow.

The ARS laboratory that developed America's most popular red seedless grape, Flame Seedless, has also offered nurseries and breeders a delicious new black seedless grape. Called Black Emerald, the newcomer is a sweet grape with berries about the size of a dime. The flesh is translucent, firm, and almost crisp.

Also watch the supermarket for Autumn Seedless, a light-green grape that became available to nurseries and growers in 1984. It is ready for harvest about 2 weeks before Thompson Seedless.

Of course, all grapes need to be properly handled. ARS studies of packaging have shown that boxes with a shrink-wrap covering offer the best insurance against loss to disease, weight loss, and shatter (grapes' tendency to drop off the stem). Plastic dome-lid boxes with vent holes are also protective. Net bags, for years considered the preferred packaging, proved the least safeguard of all.

From the East Coast to the vineyards of the Far West, grapes are a growing success story. And, since two ARS gene banks, in Geneva, New York, and Davis, California, are living treasure troves of grape varieties, we expect more juicy developments ahead.

Photo by Scott Bauer

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