Since they hit retail shelves with marketable volumes this year, Cotton Candy grapes have quickly become a media darling.
The proprietary variety was developed by fruit breeder David Cain of International Fruit Genetics LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., using conventional techniques. It is being grown and marketed by a select group of licensees, including The Grapery, Bakersfield.
At the suggestion of my boss, I sought out the new variety as fodder for a column. I’ll make an up-front disclaimer — I’m probably not the best person to write about a cotton candy-flavored food since just the smell of the sweet treat nauseates me.
Nevertheless, I kept an open mind and began the hunt.
After visits to three retail chains, I finally found Cotton Candy grapes at Raley’s in Modesto, Calif. At first glance, I thought they were just generic green table grapes. After all, they were displayed alongside green, red and black table grapes.
I also figured a special variety would have plump, large berries, kind of like autumn king. But the berries on the Cotton Candy bunches were the same size as thompson seedless and smaller than most autumn kings I’ve seen.
It was only after I saw the name “Cotton Candy” printed in pink on the grab-and-go bag that I realized these were the variety I’d been seeking.
When I got home, just pulling a bunch out of the bag stirred up odors of cotton candy, and the very first bite definitely tasted like its namesake. After eating a few more berries, the flavor evolved into a blend of cotton candy and mild grape. The berries were firm and burst in my mouth for a nice crunch.
Maybe if I had kids I’d feel differently about this variety. I was riding to a vineyard with a Fresno County table grape grower-shipper a few weeks ago, and the Cotton Candy variety came up in conversation.
He said he was a traditionalist and preferred late-season thompson seedless that were golden and had a hint of raisin flavor. But his kids practically inhaled Cotton Candy grapes.
Even if I were to discount the cotton candy flavor, I would still have a hard time paying $3.99 per pound for grapes. I was shocked when my modest-sized bag rang up $7.74 on the cash register.
But you do have to give credit to Cain and The Grapery. They’ve created a sweet treat that tastes like candy and that kids love yet has all of the health benefits of grapes.
No wonder they’ve become darlings of the media and mother