What’s So Special About the Concord Grape?

It’s the Truly American Grape

America is a land of immigrants, a great melting pot of cultures. Such is the Concord Grape. Back in the mid-1800’s, a guy named Ephraim Wales Bull developed the first Concord grapevines. He was a committed grape grower intent on developing a grapevine that would be hardy enough to survive the cold Massachusetts winters. Many European varieties did not do too well in the northern American climate. Mr. Bull is said to have evaluated over 22,000 seedlings in his time before he finally produced his masterpiece. Though he left no complete records of the heritage of this grape, experts speculate that he crossed hardy native grapes, Vitis labrusca, also known as the Fox Grape, with a European variety, Vitis vinifera. From these came up with what he thought to be the perfect grape. He named them after the town near his vineyards in Massachusetts.

It’s an American Cultural Icon

What is an American grocery store without Welch’s Grape Juice on its shelves? Not long after Mr. Bull introduced his perfect American grape at the Boston Horticultural Society, where it won first prize; a Dr. Thomas Welch, a New Jersey dentist of all things, appeared on the grape scene. Along with his wife and son, Charles, he gathered about 40 pounds of grapes from a trellis on their property. They blanched the grapes and then squished the juice out through muslin bags into quart bottles lined up on a kitchen counter.

Using the method described by Louis Pasteur, they sealed the bottles and boiled them. This pasteurization was a pioneering effort for the canned and bottled juice industry in America. His intent, however, was to make juice for non-alcoholic wine to be used during communion at his local teetotalist Methodist church. The pasteurization prevented fermentation, more churches ordered the stuff, and the business grew. Soon, Charles moved the operation to New York from New Jersey and began processing 300 tons of grapes a year. And not just for churches.

What is America without Peanut and Jelly Sandwiches? Concord Grape Jelly is the penultimate foil for peanut butter as any American kid, and any American adult for that matter, will tell you. Grape pie is a regional New England treat. And, according to some, Concord Grapes are a favorite American table grape, recognizable by their frosty blue sheen. Usually, whenever an artist or cartoonist wants to depict grapes, the Concord Grape is the model. Any child who has not worn a purple mustache at some time in his or her young life, is probably not an American child. The Concord Grape is also used to flavor and color candies.

It’s Chock-a-Block with Nutrients

Concord Grapes used in food products are low in sodium and contain no fat or cholesterol. One cup of 100% Concord Grape juice contains almost as much potassium as found in a banana. Concord Grapes are an excellent vegetable source of calcium. They contain lots of antioxidants and trace minerals so vital to health. Studies suggest that Concord Grape juice may provide some protections against breast cancer, others that it may reduce blood pressure. It can help control cholesterol levels. Concord Grapes are heart-healthy, fight narrowing of the arteries, and improve arterial elasticity. And the list goes on.

So you see, there’s a lot to appreciate about the Concord Grape. In fact, Horace Greeley called it “The Grape for the Millions.”