My short bio: Hi! My Name is Paul Farmer and I'm 27 and live in the UK.

Following a post I made in /r/mildlyinteresting about Moon Drop Grapes where I told people I am a grape technologist, lots of people had questions and suggested I should start an IAMA.

I have spent the last 7 years working for a grape importer responsible for the sourcing of table grapes for UK retailers. I've travelled the world looking at grapes and advising growers on postharvest quality, varietal innovation and various other aspects of grape production. It's quite a unique job and I have a lot of useless information about grapes and other stuff which you might find interesting.

My Proof: Photo : I'm also happy to send photo of my old and new business cards etc to mods if they require.


*Edit : It's just gone 22.40 here in the UK, I'm off to bed now but will answer more in the morning! Thanks all, glad you've found it interesting!

Comments: 1707 • Responses: 85  • Date: 

sadfacebear683 karma

You know that artificial grape flavor? Like jolly rancher grape? It doesn't taste like any grapes I've ever had.

Is there a grape that's actually designed to taste like? Or is it just a sham?

Farmertml930 karma


The artificial grape flavour is actually a chemical called Methyl Anthranaylate. It's a food safe chemical (artificially manufactured) that is also used in agriculture as a bird scarer - they hate the taste. /u/Solweintraub is correct in it's modelled on the "Concord" variety but in my opinion it takes nothing like it. HTH

sadfacebear265 karma

Thanks! Gonna try to find some methyl anthranaylate now and put it on everything.

Farmertml424 karma

Grim, it's horrible stuff.

mrmyst3rious212 karma

In true irony, do vineyards put Methyl Anthranaylate on their grapes to keep the birds away?

Farmertml312 karma

Some do - it's quite rare!

You would spray it either on the ground or on the leaf canopy, not onto the grapes themselves.

ADrunkenBotanist102 karma

Viticulture PhD student here. MA is pretty commonly used where I am. Mostly on red grapes -- probably a color attractant for birds, because they're the only grapes the birds are voraciously after. The vineyard I'm working in used MA mostly on Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, where they can lose up to half their yield to swallows sparrows. Crazy stuff. We'd like to work on detecting MA in the wine from their grapes. As is, I bought a bottle of the Pinot Noir rosé from 2014 (the first year they sprayed MA), and it seems fine to me.

edit: birds are bad juju all around for grapes

bluehat935 karma

Gas Chromatography on the wine to detect it? They are doing this type of stuff in the medical cannabis world to check for pesticide, fungicide, etc use.

Max_Thunder10 karma

Methyl Anthranaylate is naturally found in the grapes from what I understand. It's just that when you isolate it, it doesn't taste anything like grapes. I guess you could dose it using some kind of chromatography and compare it to wine made from grapes with no added MA.

Farmertml7 karma

You're correct!

mrmyst3rious65 karma

Funny thing is that my wife and son both love grapes but hate all the artificial grape flavors (Kool-Aid in particular). I always thought it was BS, and probably 12 years ago I found some special Kool-Aid that was colored differently for the flavor. This particular packet was red Kool-Aid that tasted like grape. She took one sip and spit it out...proving beyond a doubt that she really hates that artificial atrocity known as artificial grape.

Farmertml29 karma

I hate it so much, she's not alone!

ShadyLondon345 karma

How do they make the cotton candy grapes taste the way they do?

Farmertml362 karma

It's a process called Hybridisation where they cross pollen of one variety with another. I'll do a more detailed post when I've finished work about how this is done.

Chicken-n-Waffles25 karma

My kids love cotton candy grapes and I favor the Moon Drop grapes.

Farmertml28 karma

I love them too :)

trizzant22 karma

Where can I find all these grapes at to buy? Am I just missing them at the grocery store? I'm in southern california.

Farmertml31 karma

I'm in the UK so not sure sorry.. I'm sure they're in the major "better quality" retailers like World Foods and Sams Club. Sorry I'm not too familiar with US retail.

jazerac37 karma

This is what I am interested in as well. What are the nutritional differences between a cotton candy flavored grape vs your standard red/green grape?

Farmertml99 karma

Surprisingly it's not that much different. A typical grape variety will be between 16-20% BRIX (which rudimentally is the measurement of dissolved sugar in the berry). Cotton Candy will be at the higher end and might reach 23% brix.

To get the cotton candy flavour it needs to be at least 18%. If you want the best flavoured ones look for the more yellow coloured ones.

Nepoxx47 karma

They make you shit brix too!


Farmertml30 karma

I enjoyed it!

ladypants_dance20 karma

I was just shopping for cotton candy grapes and avoided the yellow colored ones because I thought they were "bad" or something. smh.

Farmertml35 karma

These are the BEST flavoured ones!!!! I know they don't look the best but flavour wise they'll be yum.

OmitsWordsByAccident266 karma

Is there a name for that weird "dust" on grapes? Does it serve any purpose?

I always try to wash it off, because it resembles fertilizer or pesticide residue... but I suspect the grapes themselves might be producing it (?)

Farmertml486 karma

Yep it's actually called "bloom". Bloom is the plants natural wax which protects it and is a sign of freshness.

You can tell the difference between bloom and dust with a simple test. Firstly bloom looks almost blue in appearance on red grapes and white in appearance on white grapes. If you rub your thumb and finger over the grape to "wipe it off", if you then look at your thumb and finger you'll see brown dust if it's dust and nothing if it's bloom.

It's very rare to see a pesticide residue on the grape, it will look like a perfect circle 3-4mm across. Hope that helps :)

faylir230 karma

Dear Diary,

Today OP was a pretty cool person.

Hope one day I can find something I'm that passionate about.

Farmertml93 karma

I'm sure you will, and if it happens any way like it did to me you'll fall upon it and fall in love it :)

AspiringTrucker253 karma

What is the largest kind of grape today? Also, do you grape people in the mouth?

Farmertml227 karma

The largest seeded commercial variety is Red Globe which is grown all over the world. The largest 'Seedless' varieties are Autumn Crisp (Sugrathirtyfive) and Adora (Sugrathirtyfour).

Often with grapes bigger size means that it won't develop sugar and will often be soft textured. Smaller, milky colour (white) grapes are the best.

Djerrid73 karma

Ok, I'm guessing Sugrathirtyfive and Sugrathirtyfour mean something. What's the number at the end of the "Sugra" mean?

Farmertml152 karma

So Sunworld is one of the older breeding programs for grapes. They created the variety called "Superior Seedless" which you still see a lot of around the world. Superior is the trademark name but the official plant variety name is Sugraone. They basically called this "Superior Grape *One (as in the first variety). Ever since, all their other good varieties follow the same naming with an additional number.

in your example, Sugrathirtyfour is the legal name but it's sold as "Adora".

ezone2kil39 karma

TIL the grape industry is similar to the pharma industry where we have the generic compound name and the trade name.

Farmertml33 karma

Yup, people love to protect their IP and also charge a premium for access to the good varieties, makes good business sense :)

aimstylez203 karma

  • Whats your favourite type of grape?
  • Do you like raisins?

Farmertml329 karma

My favourite variety is a black grape which is marketed as "Sable" - It's true variety name is Sugrasixteen (Superior - Grape - sixteen) and comes from the Sunworld breeding program in America. I like it because it has an amazing sweet flavour and the fact they are so moreish. It's quite a difficult variety to grow but most countries have it so there is almost 365day availability around the world. If you're in the USA now you should be seeing loads of it from the Sunworld breeding program.

Yes I like raisins but don't really eat them very often - I'm usually too full of grapes :)

hi_alpha125 karma


Wow, just learned a new word!

Farmertml174 karma

You guys don't use that over the pond? It's a very British word :)

kevinday118 karma

My british wife said "moreish" over here, and someone thought she was saying "Moorish" instead, and took offense to that.

The term "Moors" has also been used in Europe in a broader, somewhat derogatory sense to refer to Muslims in general -- Wikipedia

It was awkward for about 30 seconds.

Farmertml72 karma

Oh damn.. I'll remember that next time I'm in the USA.

holaemailer38 karma

I've eaten green grapes for years. Tried black this month and I'm never going back.

Farmertml26 karma

Haha so true, a good black grape is amazing. The best one is called Sable - give it a try!

RondaArousedMe140 karma

Would you call yourself a Grapist?

Farmertml145 karma

Sounds a bit dodgy for my liking!

threkar109 karma

I bought a pack of concord grapes a few weeks ago and every bunch had spider webs inside, how do I continue on with my life?

Farmertml149 karma

Concord is only really grown in the USA.. I guess that's where you purchased it also? I think the more worrying this is that in the USA grape vineyards are a heaven for Black Widow Spiders so be careful.

Grapes being exported to the UK must go through the New Zealand fumigation protocol to kill them first.

Smart_Home196 karma

USA grape vineyards are a heaven for Black Widow Spiders

And that statement, ladies and gentleman, single-handedly crashed the US grape economy.

Never again.

Farmertml77 karma

Haha... I can't believe the American's don't know anything about it!

KimKimMRW24 karma

I live in southern Alberta, Canada and I brought home some grapes from our local grocery store obviously imported from the US and we found a very large black widow spider inside.

The grapes had been in my fridge for hours and she was really sluggish when I spotted her on my hand. Promptly put her in the freezer in a tupperware container. Then hours later my husband took the container out and shook it really hard till the legs broke off, then tossed the container in the trash.

Now we check our grapes closely at the stores!

Farmertml37 karma

Unfortunately in California Black Widows are native and grapes provide a great place to nest for them. It's the only place in the world where it's common to find them.

Fortunately in the UK we have to put all USA grapes through a fumigation process to kill them so they pose less of a threat.

milkandrelish5 karma

What is the New Zealand fumigation protocol??

Farmertml7 karma

It's a process where the grapes are gas flushed with a mixture of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide which kills any spiders present. It does have an impact on grape quality, specifically stem freshness, they tend to brown more easily when they've been through the process.

panlina97 karma

I enjoy grapes with a tarter flavor and strong "grape" taste. I find many grapes in US grocery stores sugary without much other flavor. Do you have any recommendations?

Also, do what grapes are good for home growers? (I'm in US zone 6B)

Farmertml109 karma

"Thompson" is likely the most traditional white grape with a grape taste.

I also love Crimson, Krissy, Sable, Magenta, Sweet Celebration.

noraamitt23 karma

Crimson, Krissy, Sable, Magenta, Sweet Celebration.

Okay, now you're just making shit up

Farmertml24 karma

Look them up.

Crimson is a USDA variety, Krissy and Magenta are from SNFL (, Sweet Celebration is from IFG (


Kitchner94 karma

Which countries have you visited and which was your favourite?

Also which produces the best grapes?

Farmertml160 karma

I have visited Egypt, Spain, Greece, Israel, Peru, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, USA, India, Morocco, France, Italy, Namibia.

In my view South Africa produces the best grapes, they usually harvest between November (Northern Cape) through to March (Western Cape).

Greece comes a close second but is getting less consistent due to the fact it's more of a cottage industry than South Africa.

avatharam33 karma

Did you visit the sula vineyards in India? Nashik and Bangalore?

Farmertml56 karma

Yes!! Their Chennin Blanc is very good, I was really surprised. The only problem with Indian wine is it gives me terrible headaches if I drink to much.

The balcony and food at Sula was also very nice :)

avatharam24 karma

Sula wines have had a hard time getting people to believe they're got a good portfolio of wines. The only way they win is, blind tests where no one is told it's made in India

Farmertml29 karma

Yup, I'll agree. I have a friend who is very into wine and he was really surprised.

Like I said the only downside was the headache the next day... even after just a couple of glasses.

Banjeegirl76 karma

Any tips on picking out the best grapes in the grocery store?

Farmertml147 karma

Sure :)

White Grapes : Look for ones that are milky white in colour, even turning slightly yellow. These have the highest level of sugar. Always avoid ones that a dark green and almost translucent - we call this "Glassy Fruit" in the industry.


mind-sailor21 karma

Is This what you mean by white grapes?

Farmertml80 karma

Those ones I would call amber. They also look like wine grapes so are likely overmature - which is a trait you need to make good wine.

This is the perfect colour for white grapes

goodintent34 karma

Why do you not call them green grapes? I've never heard the terminology "white grapes" before.

Farmertml31 karma

Grapes that are green are sour! Never buy a grape that looks dark green in colour, aim for ones that are white to amber colour (I did link a picture earlier of the perfect coloured grape).

DaBomb32616 karma

BUT how do I pick out good dark grapes?

Farmertml27 karma

Black grapes, look for full colour and stem freshness, also look for smaller fruit as it normally has better flavour.

dcux1 karma

My wife insists on checking stem color above fruit color for freshness. I.a green stems, not brown. Assuming fruit qualities are generally identical, this seems to work out.

Farmertml4 karma

Stem colour tells you very limited information about the grapes other than if they were harvested recently or are getting old. Saying that, grapes will stay fresh for 30-40days with green stems if kept in the right conditions.

The best grapes are white / yellow in colour - avoid any dark green, dull, translucent ("glassy") fruit.

FredFerd76 karma

What is the weirdest and most absurd grape breed you have come across in your line of work? Any photos or links?

Farmertml108 karma

Cotton Candy or Sweet Sapphire are the most absurd ones commercially available. Cotton Candy tastes like (surprise surprise) Cotton Candy. Sweet Sapphire is a very elongated berry with an indented end. You can google them both there is loads of information about them - including Youtube videos.

LuciferLite61 karma

What's your favourite fruit, if it isn't grapes?
Also, if you could be a specialist on another type of fruit/vegetable, what would you like to be a specialist in?

Farmertml135 karma

I recently moved jobs to diversify from just doing grapes so I also look after Bananas, Melons, Kiwi, Pineapple and exotics.

My favourite other fruit is definitely Mango!!! Can't get enough of Kent Mangoes!

Jawshem50 karma

What, in your professional opinion, is the silliest named grape?

Farmertml98 karma

Razzle Dazzle.... This was the original name for a variety with an amazing flavour. Unfortunately Razzle is a pornographic magazine in the UK so didn't think this was the best name choice.

coughcough47 karma

I prefer seeded grapes, but everyone I know seems to think that's strange. Can you give me some grape seed facts I can throw at my friends and family?

Farmertml118 karma

The grape seed produces a natural acid called Gibberlic Acid (GA3). This is what makes the grapes grow bigger - it's a cell extender. Seedless grapes are unable to produce the same level of GA3 so it's applied as a spray during production. This is why Seeded grapes are bigger than seedless generally.

TheRestaurateur20 karma

Farmers also girdle their vines to encourage larger grapes.

I specifically searched for a comment about seedless grape size, because many home gardeners buy seedless varieties, and think they must be doing something wrong when they see their grapes are rather tiny.

Farmertml22 karma

Correct! :)

Farmertml41 karma

OK, Thanks for your patience guys!... Here are a load of responses to common questions.

How did you get into this job? What did you study? I went to Harper Adams University in the UK, I studied BSc Agri Food Marketing with Business Studies (4 year) with a 3rd year placement course. I found the company I work for during a placement fair, they specialise in Grapes, Citrus production and import to the UK selling to the major retailers. I had a passion for grapes when I started and ended up travelling the world sourcing the grapes working with growers to check quality and support and advise them on best practice in line with what our customers want. I also did a viticulture short course at Plumpton College and a two week post harvest course at UC Davis in California.

What countries have you visited to look at grapes? Egypt, Spain, Greece, Israel, Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, USA, Chile, Peru, India, Namibia, France, UK.

Where are the best grapes Grown? In my opinion, South Africa.

What are you favourite varieties? White: Thompson, Timpson & Ivory Seedless. Red: Krissy, Jack's Salute, Crimson. Black: Sable Speciality: Gum Drops(106-228), Muscat Beauty and Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy Grapes, How do they get the flavour into them? What is this Hybridisation you're talking about which makes them? Firstly let's clear up a very common question. All these crazy new varieties are NOT GMO. The grapes are are actually a lucky cross during a hybridisation process. Hybridisation of grapes as a very simple and manual process and mimics what nature does normally. So grapes are SEXUAL, yes I said it, SEXUAL. Even more interestingly they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female parts. In the normal world a grape vine will pollinate itself and does not rely on things like bee's to pollinate. In order to hybridise a grape and prevent it from fertilising itself you have to Emasculate two plants (take of the male parts of the flower with the pollen on). Then you literally take the pollen from one plant and brush it into the other one (or put it in a bag over the other and shake vigorously). This then fertilises the flower and a new grape variety is born! I told you it's very simple and no scientific genetic modification or DNA changing anywhere to be seen! What's interesting is you can cross the same two varieties multiple times and the child that you get will nearly always be different - the same way that human parents have multiple children they're not clones!
Once you grow a variety that you like, you then have to copies of it using embryo rescue (see below). Once you then test the variety over the next couple of years you can then propagate it and get it sold commercially. The breeding programs will cross up to 10,000 varieties per year and maybe only take 5-10 onto the next stage of evaluation. It's a costly and labour intensive process. The whole process of "creating" a variety to having it commercially sold will take roughly 10 years.

There is more basic info on hybridisation in grapes here

Seedless grapes have seeds, what? How can you grow / replicate a seedless grape? Yup, all seedless grapes actually have seeds although you probably have never noticed them. In seedless varieties the grape actually aborts the seed as it starts developing so when you cut into a grape from top to bottom (stem end to flower end) you will be able to see between 2-4 little sacks which are mini "soft-seeds". The big challenge with these is to replicate the variety and clone it you have to rescue the embryo out of the seed before it gets aborted. Once you rescue the embryo you can plant it and voilà. Grapes are not planted from seeds because they are genetically poor at resisting disease / nematodes in the soil. The breeders will grow the variety in a nursery in controlled conditions and then take budwood from the plant and graft it onto a rootstock. Grafting is where you take the dormant scion budwood of the variety you want and cut it and slot it into the rootstock. There is better explanation here with pictures

Are you a Grapeist? At first I thought everyone was just being rude and calling me a rapist but it seems there is a meme here! I have just pissed myself laughing at it too! For those of you wondering see this . The answer is no, your kids are safe!

Do you know a lot about Wine? What What do you Drink / Recommend? Short answer No. Table grape production and wine grape production is very different. Different techniques are used and different outcomes are required. I don't really like "wine snobs" who get "elderberry and blueberry notes" and all that poncy rubbish. I like wine but I don't go that far! Favourite wines would be Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvinion & Pinotage.

What should I look for when buying a grape? White Grapes: Look for Milky white grapes or ones that are going slightly amber in colour. These are so much sweeter. NEVER, EVER, EVER, buy dark green coloured grapes and look slightly translucent. They will be soft and sour. Green = bad, Milky white = good. Red Grapes: Look for brightly coloured grapes, they should still have nice fresh green stems and not look dull and weak. Colour doesn't = sweetness, sometimes a light pink or non-fully coloured grape will taste just as good if not better than a very dark one.

Black Grapes: Look for varieties that are fully black! Most black grapes are actually seedless now. My favourite variety is Sable, available year round in the UK :)

What's that white stuff you sometimes see all over grapes/ should I wash it off/ will it kill me/is it pesticide? Bloom is the plants natural yeast which protects it and is a sign of freshness. The yeast is actually very important in the production of wine! You can tell the difference between bloom and dust with a simple test. Firstly bloom looks almost blue in appearance on red grapes and white in appearance on white grapes. If you rub your thumb and finger over the grape to "wipe it off", if you then look at your thumb and finger you'll see brown dust if it's dust and nothing if it's bloom. It's very rare to see a pesticide residue on the grape, it will look like a perfect circle 3-4mm across. Pesticides are very heavily regulated on grapes and it's very unlikely there will be residues left. You certainly wouldn't be able to see them! Other than eating them what is another good use for grapes? Freeze them! You can either eat them frozen as a snack, but make sure you get sweet and small ones as it's more enjoyable OR even better use the frozen grapes as ice cubes! They don't dilute your drink and will stay colder for longer. It's really good to keep wine chilled without diluting!

What do you think about Muscadines? I haven't really had any experience with them sorry!

Where can I get all these crazy varieties from? In the UK they are normally sold in places like Sainsbury's or Marks & Spencer. Around the rest of the world you'll have to see, try your specialist retailers. Remember that many of the varieties are seasonal so you wont get them year round (yet!).

Farmertml30 karma

Have you heard about grape plasma / lazers? No but the video is pretty epic, don't try this at home!

What Grape variety should I plant in my back yard? This is a very difficult question to answer, it really depends on everything from climate to soil to nutrition to rainfall. I would seek some advice from a local person who has experience, they might be able to help better than me.

Where does artifical grape taste in drinks come from (like Kool-aid)? The artificial grape flavour is actually a chemical called Methyl Anthranaylate. It's a food safe chemical (artificially manufactured but is produced in tiny amounts in grapes) . Interestingly is also used in agriculture as a bird scarer - they hate the taste. /u/Solweintraub is correct in it's modelled on the "Concord" variety but in my opinion it tastes nothing like it

How many grapes do you eat per day when in the vineyards? About 1-1.5kg. I have stomach of steel now so it's not a problem. I do sometimes get headaches because of the sugar though, I try to keep hydrated which helps.

What's the dry feeling in my mouth when I eat them sometimes? The dry feeling you get is called astringency, it's caused primarily by the tannins present in the berry - primarily the skin. These are very important in wine making but undesirable in table grapes. We try to select varieties without astringency.

How do you measure sugar in grapes? Most grapes are picked between 17-20% Sugar. We measure sugar with a refractometer. There is actually an interesting fact here.. If you mix sugar with water to the level of brix (dissolved sugar) that the berry matches it will sink or float. This is actually how they tell if grapes are ripe in the vineyard, they set the sugar concentration of the water to the level they want the berry to be. If it sink's it meets the amount and can be harvested, floats it's not ready!

I'm finding spiders in my grapes / Is it true there are black widows in grapes / What is the weirdest thing you've found in a punnet or bag of grapes? Yep you're right, there are occasionally dangerous spiders but they are primarily from the USA (Black Widows). In the UK we insist that the grapes are fumigated to the New Zeland Protocol before export to kill them so the risk is low. The rest of the world there are spiders but not really dangerous ones - it's very rare to find them in other parts of the world The oddest thing we found was a tooth, followed by a tarantula.. but that only happened once. Happy eating ;)

What's this New Zealand Protocol for fumigation? It's a process where the grapes are gas flushed with a mixture of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide which kills any spiders present. It does have an impact on grape quality, specifically stem freshness, they tend to brown more easily when they've been through the process.

When you're in the vineyard with the grower what do you actually do? I'll measure the quality parameters, size, colour, sugar, sugar acid ratio. I'll look for uniformity, give the growers advice on when I think they should harvest, estimate crop % for me and then advise on packing - how to place the bunch in the punnet and manipulate it to make sure it fits neat and tidily. I'll make sure they are legally compliant etc. There is lots :)

Is Global Warming & the increase in Grower Degree Days Affecting Grape Production? This is a really good question. It's really changing the landscape but more on wine than table grapes. I think the most famous wine grape would be Champange from the Champagne region of France. The increase in Grower Degree Days in France is making it harder to reach the right sugar and acid ratio BUT in the south of the UK sparkling wines are becoming increasingly popular and renowned for their quality! To be honest in the rest of the world things aren't changing too much as new source countries and varieties are filling the gaps in production.

People tell me that they use Sulphur in Grapes to Preserve them / When I eat grapes they hurt my mouth sometimes / Why are grapes harmful to dogs? Once grapes have been packed they nearly always have a paper pad impregnated with Sodium Metabisulphate which when mixed with moisture in the air releases Sulphur Dioxide in low doses (less than 10ppm). This inhibits botrytis which is the biggest fungal disease affecting grapes. Without this pad you would be unable to ship grapes around the world without suffering huge losses. Unfortunately many people are allergic to sulphur and sulphites and sometimes can get irritated by eating grapes. If this is the case try and wash them more thoroughly and leave them in an airy environment. Also avoid Chilean fruit because they use loads! I believe this is also the reason why dogs can't eat them but I can't confirm that 100%.

I hear grape growers spray chemicals on their grapes to make them bigger, is this true? In seeded grapes the seed produces a natural acid called Gibberlic Acid (GA3). This makes the grapes grow bigger - it's a cell extender. Seedless grapes are unable to produce the same level of GA3 so it's applied as a spray during the growth stages. This is why Seeded grapes are bigger than seedless generally. GA3 is not going to hurt you.

I've seen people cutting their vines around the bark, what does this achieve? Yep, this is a very common practice which is called "Girdling". Basically you take a knife and cut around the outer bark of the vine, this cuts the "phloem" (the system) which transfers nutrients back to the roots - forcing the plant to keep the nutrients from photosynthesis into the grapes making them bigger and sweeter. Girdling done at different times of the year will have different affects on the plant. It will leave a permanent scar on the vine - some plant will have scars of 10-15 girdles in some cases! There is lots of info on girdling on Wikipedia / google if you want a bit more detail :)

AMPtastic37 karma

Have you ever enjoyed frozen grapes as a healthy snack? They are like mini popsicles, and my current obsession. I am binging on the cotton candy ones, currently! And in my opinion, freezing them brings out more of the cotton candy flavor.

Farmertml71 karma

Yep love them! They're also great "ice cubes" in drinks as they don't dilute it when they melt... :)

Djerrid33 karma

I have a large concord grape vine. Before I was able to harvest it, animals or birds ate every single one. Any suggestions on how to prevent this in the future?

Farmertml60 karma

They're clever things birds, they know when the sugar is right!

You can buy chemicals to scare birds but the most effective way is to cover the vine with a net as you start to see the fruit getting good colour.

baconmomo29 karma

Why do you grape?

Farmertml50 karma

Because I sort of fell into it with the company I started working with after graduation. They are specialists in grapes and citrus. I now actually also look after Melons, Pineapples, Bananas, Kiwis, Grapes & Exotic Fruit.

karissuhhuhuh27 karma

If you can kill someone just using one grape, how would you do it?

Farmertml92 karma

Give them one with a massive seed and watch them choke.. seriously though this is a possibility especially with kids. Be careful folks!

Karlaw623 karma

Do the Cotton Candy grapes have a ton of added sugar that make them taste so sweet?

Farmertml40 karma

Nope they're 100% natural. They actually have a similar amount of sugar to "normal" varieties. I answered this is more detail somewhere else in the thread.

Karlaw610 karma

Sorry for the repeated question; there were so many to read. But, thanks for getting back to me anyway! That's wonderful news because I love them and now I don't feel guilty :)

Farmertml17 karma

No worries - I know you you feel, I can't quite believe how many people have asked questions haha!

_____--_-_-_-__-22 karma

What are your thoughts in raisins?

Farmertml56 karma

I like raisins but they're very concentrated in sugar. Also a commonly not known fact is that they are sprayed with fats.. Historically they were all sprayed with Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil to keep them fresh. It's been banned in the UK but not sure if it's still being done in the USA - check your pack!

kumar24719 karma

What did you study to get into the field you are in? How many years in college (uni)?

Farmertml35 karma

I studied BSc (Hons) Agri-Food Marketing with Business studies at Harper Adams University College in the UK. It was a 4 year course with a 1 year placement - where I found the company I started working with on grapes.

ilijadwa16 karma

Firstly, I live on a farm and our business is table grapes! So respect to you! My farm is in Perth. What's your favourite variety?

Farmertml15 karma

Favourite variety is Sable, it's a small black variety which is hard to grow but it's really good. More info about this in another response somewhere on here.

ilijadwa16 karma

hey that's great, we grow Sable and it is very popular with everybody around here. I personally prefer Midnight Beauty which is a similar grape but has a better texture and larger berries. Have you heard of the autumn crisp grape? Huge, seedless, white grape that require little spraying and have a very crisp texture. Tipped to be the next big thing here in Aus, we've planted about 4000 vines.

Farmertml26 karma

Midnight is OK, the problem is most people around the world harvest it too early. You need to achieve at least 18% brix before it gets it's nice flavour (my opinion). I like Autumn Crisp (Sugrathirtyfive), my only concern for UK market is it's too big.

Just wondering what company do you work for in Aus, I might have heard of you before :)

chenan13 karma

Whenever I eat Niabell grapes or other certain juicy grapes my mouth hurts. I learned this is from the tannins in the skin. Is there anyway to avoid this?

Farmertml35 karma

Tannins are unlikely to hurt you... I'm just wondering if you have an allergic reaction to Sulphur? All grapes around the world are shipped with a Sulphur Dioxide generating pad to prevent against botrytis. I would have a look into this with your doctor as it may be the answer!

Tannis are simply formed of amino acids. You notice a variety with high tannins will have an astringent taste - this means when you eat it your mouth will lose it's moisture and feels floury.

Hope this helps!

delta836912 karma

Hello Paul! Thanks for doing this AMA, it is certainly unique and interesting.

I (and I assume many people) have never heard of your profession. I have a few questions.

1) Why did you become a Grape Technologist?

2) What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

3) What is something about grapes that many people do not know, but may be useful, important, or just cool?

Farmertml26 karma

Hi, thanks for your comments! 1) I sort of fell into it due to my university course (Search Harper Adams on this page for more about that and how I got the job). 2) I love the travelling around the world and having good relationships with growers. 3) No grape is actually Seedless. The "Seedless" varieties actually abort their seed when the berry develops. If you cut the berry down the middle lengthways with a knife (from stem end to bottom) you will actually see between 2-4 "soft seeds" which is where the embryo is. Normally you just eat this and don't notice it but it's always there.

Shitdiaper10 karma

I love the cotton candy flavored grapes! They sell them at my local Kroger (SE Michigan). How is that flavor created?! Also, have you ever heard of Grapples? They are grape flavored apples!!!!

Farmertml14 karma

Yep I have heard of grapples and also the Grango - tastes like a Mango. The varieties real name is K2.

I will answer the other question later.

Ulysses93710 karma

I read somewhere that the artificial banana flavoring used today tastes nothing like banana because bananas have been heavily modified through the years. Do today's grape flavored food items get their taste from a now extinct type of grape?

Farmertml17 karma

This is an interesting question. I'm not too sure about the artificial banana flavour but I can tell you a bit about the variety. There is one "main" commercial variety planted called Cavendish which would you believe came from the UK!! The reason it's one of the main varieties is because when Panama Disease destroyed most of the banana crops in 1903 it was not affected!

The grape used primarily for juice is a variety called Concord which has a distinct flavour. I don't really like it myself but it's very popular.

The artificial grape flavour you get in fizzy drinks (Kool Aid) and stuff is actually a chemical called methyl anthranilate. Interestingly this is also used to scare birds of crops and forms the main part of a bird scaring chemical that's sprayed on crops!

MooreMeatloaf9 karma

When I buy grapes is it better to store them in the fridge or keep them on the counter?

Farmertml27 karma

If you want them to last longer you MUST keep them in the fridge. Saying that, before you want to eat them you should let them get to room temperature as they will have stronger flavour. Some varieties eat better cold but the majority are better warm.

This is the same rule of thumb for many fruits (Strawberries etc).

scully00019 karma

Is there a low GI grape? Or perhaps a grape with some special nutritional benefit that you know of? Thanks for doing this!!

Farmertml17 karma

There isn't a low GI grape unfortunately but you want to look for varieties with a low sugar acid ratio - the key here is looking for new season fruit which is typically lower in sugar and has a lower acid ratio. Some varieties that have lower sugar would be White: Early Sweet, Prime, Melissa. Red: Flame, Red Globe. Black: Midnight Beauty.

Sorry I can't help more than that!

TheRealTofuey9 karma

At what moment did you realize you wanted to be a grape technologist?

Farmertml24 karma

When I realised how interesting grapes were and started travelling the world.

Thisoneismyfavourite4 karma

How many different grape genetic labs are there? Or do you mind if I ask which are the most prominent?

Farmertml11 karma

There are about 5 main breeding programs. Important to note they are not "labs" doing horrible work, most of them are all based in a field crossing pollen.. it's a very rudimentary process. The main ones are Sunworld, SNFL (Sheehan), IFG, ARRA (Giumarra)

TSengy4 karma

Where in the UK can I find Sweet Sapphires?!

Farmertml8 karma

There are some available in M&S at the moment, try the bigger shops though! We at Sainsbury's sell it but not currently.

theh19823 karma

Grape Drink or Grape Juice?

Farmertml7 karma

I actually really done like grape based drinks (I like wine though!)

IJustWantComment3 karma

Where does an average costumer get different kinds of grapes (instead of just the normal round ones)?

Farmertml6 karma

Not sure where you live but in the UK most the supermarkets are now doing the funky varieties. In the USA, look at the more specialist retailers they will have them. It's quite seasonal but you're in luck as the American harvest is in full flow.

khskhs13 karma

so would you say grape technology has gone too far?

Farmertml10 karma

Not at all. Grapes are a very cash intensive crop. To grow one hectare (not including the lane) will cost you around £50,000 to get the structure and plants to a point where they produce fruit. They are also all harvested manually and require thinning work (where people take scissors and cut off the tiny berries to allow the bunch to develop evenly and fruit to grow to the correct size without overcrowding).

The "silver bullet" in table grapes would be to achieve mechanical harvest and be able to grow the grapes with low costs, low inputs (including less water).

chowderpuff2 karma

Is it ok to freeze grapes, defrost them to eat then refreeze them?

Farmertml4 karma

They won't taste good after this BUT I have a top tip...

If you want to chill a drink but not dilute it like you do with an ice cube, put some frozen grapes in it! :) Chilled wine with frozen grapes is great and not diluted.

Anablue2 karma

Are muscadine grapes healthy ?

Farmertml4 karma

If it's part of the muscatel family they're no worse than other grapes - they do have high sugar levels (between 19-25%).

krankie2 karma

Dear master of grapes,

This one time, in August 2004 (Michigan,USA), I got a hold of some standard-issue green grapes, but for some reason they were elongated like the moondrops/sapphire variety are. I had never seen elongated grapes. They were super tight and crisp and they were the best bunch of grapes I've ever had. I haven't been able to find any since. Is that some special species or did I win the grape jackpot and just get lucky with a good bunch?

Farmertml5 karma

It could have been a very elongated Thompson or a variety called "ARRA15" which is from Giumarra in the USA. This is not the best picture but

I think they're being marketed in the USA as "Sweeties". Good luck I hope you find them.

rishi131 karma

Do you like your job or doing it for money ?

Farmertml1 karma

Both :)

rishi131 karma

What you finally want to do with grapes ?

Farmertml3 karma

I'm not sure really.. I just like to be able to offer the customers of my business the most interesting, exciting and best varieties all year round. I think the nutritional and health benefits of grapes have not been explored and there is opportunity to turn it into a health food. The other thing is to find good quality eating grapes which are low in sugar as it's one of the highest sugar fruits available to buy.

rishi131 karma

What was good and bad things adout grapes of India ?

Farmertml8 karma

** Good ** When I go to India I love the Indian food! The grapes are grown in Nashik and Sangli and I really like those areas. Indian producers are all smallholders with about 5-10 acres so their entire livelihood is looking after those grapes each year. By supporting these farmers there is a feel good factor. India only exporters 3% of total production even though it's one of the largest total producers. Hygiene is some of the best in the world, growers understand that there is a negative image of india and have gone over and above to address that.

** Bad ** India does not allow large scale individual farm owners. I believe there is a limit to 10acres of agricultural land per individual which means it's very hard to get consistent, uniform product that you get from growers who have 2500acre farms in other parts around the world.

ricklionheart1 karma

Is it true that grapes from predominantly warm climates generally taste bad? I have tasted grapes from where I live, north of Brazil, and they tasted awful.

Farmertml3 karma

I've spend a lot of time in Petrolina where most the grapes are grown for export. The grapes are all pretty good!!

Grapes need hot, dry climates to grow well. The biggest challenge in Brazil is the weather is too consistently warm so the natural dormancy and bud break of the plant is hard to induce. It also means getting colour on red grapes which requires high day temps and low night temps is hard!

TheRealTofuey1 karma


Farmertml2 karma

I've answered this in another question, hope you can find it :)

mustbeexhausting1 karma

Will you sign my copy of The Illustrated History of Competitive Yawning?

Farmertml2 karma


Liarize1 karma

Have you tried the Mentos Grape flavours? U SHOULD IT'S MY DAD'S FAVE

Farmertml2 karma

I haven't. I actually really hate artificial grape flavour, they normally use methyl anthranalate to give the fake flavour.

xoxoTheDudexoxo1 karma

What is the healthiest grape?

Farmertml2 karma

It depends what you define healthy as... with low sugar look for early varieties (Flame, Early Sweet, Prime). For ones with high antioxidants look for the brighter red varieties like Crimson, Magenta, Krissy, Sweet Celebration.

avatharam1 karma

what is the white dusty stuff, mildew like on all grape bunches? Is it safe to eat? And how do you wash off any pesticides and other residue? I usually put it in a colander and let it be there for 20m and drain the water. Would that be enough?

Farmertml2 karma

Copied from an answer to earlier post

Yep it's actually called "bloom". Bloom is the plants natural wax which protects it and is a sign of freshness.

You can tell the difference between bloom and dust with a simple test. Firstly bloom looks almost blue in appearance on red grapes and white in appearance on white grapes. If you rub your thumb and finger over the grape to "wipe it off", if you then look at your thumb and finger you'll see brown dust if it's dust and nothing if it's bloom.

It's very rare to see a pesticide residue on the grape, it will look like a perfect circle 3-4mm across. Pesticides are very heavily regulated on grapes and it's very unlikely there will be residues left. You certainly wouldn't be able to see them visually.

Hope that helps :)

rishi130 karma

Is your job is interesting ?

Farmertml2 karma

I like to think it is.. There is so much that goes into producing a grape that people have no idea about. I've also had the opportunity to travel the world and see things I would never have experienced otherwise. I now also look after other products not just grapes and that's really interesting.