California is top banana when it comes to table grape production, with 85,000 bearing acres and another 11,000 acres that aren’t in production yet, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.
Of the more than 70 varieties grown in the state, about a dozen account for the bulk of shipments, according to USDA and California Table Grape Commission figures.
Most of those leading varieties came from the USDA’s public grape breeding program in Parlier, Calif.
Many retailers still promote them to consumers under generic green, red or black descriptors.
Bravante Produce, Reedley, Calif., plans to affix stickers to stand-up pouch bags this season to educate consumers about the variety inside.
The top 12 varieties, based on 2010 bearing acreage:
- Perlette: May-June. With round, green berries, this is one of the oldest varieties still in commercial production, with the original cross occurring in 1936, according to University of California-Davis literature.
It matures earlier than thompson seedless and is one of the first grapes entering the summer market in May.
Many grower-packer-shippers have discontinued handling perlettes, instead opting for some of the more recently released white varieties that provide a better eating experience.
- Sugraone: May-August. Many grower-shippers have replaced perlettes with sugraones in recent years.
Also known as Superior Seedless, sugraone has large, green elongated seedless berries.
- Flame seedless: May-November. One of the first red seedless grapes on the market in summer, they have medium-sized, round, seedless berries.
Except for thompson seedless, flames are the most widely grown variety and can also be dried as raisins.
- Thompson seedless: June-December. This versatile grape can go fresh, be dried for raisins or crushed for juice or wine.
As a result, the USDA categorizes it as a raisin-type grape and includes all acreage under its raisin data. Thompson seedless produces medium to large green, cylindrical seedless berries.
- Princess: June-December. Another green variety, princess — also known as Melissa — produces large, green cylindrical seedless berries.
- Summer royal: June-October. This is one of the first black varieties to enter the market, offering medium-sized, blue-black, round to slightly oval seedless berries.
- Red globe: July-January. Red globe produces very large, red, round seeded berries. Much of the crop is exported to countries where consumers aren’t bothered by seeds.
- Scarlet royal: July-December. This variety produces large, red, oval, seedless berries.
- Crimson seedless: August-January. One of the later varieties, crimson seedless yields medium-sized, red, cylindrical seedless berries.
By putting it in cold storage after harvest, grower-shippers can offer it to retailers through the Christmas holiday season.
- Ruby seedless: August-December. One of the later varieties, ruby seedless — also known as king ruby — produces medium-sized, red, oval seedless berries.
It also can be put in cold storage after harvest for holiday sales.
- Autumn king: September-December. This green variety produces very large, cylindrical to oval seedless berries.
It is one of the later varieties, coming in typically after Labor Day.
- Vintage red: September-December. Large red, oval to elongated seedless berries are typical of vintage red. It has a very sweet flavor.