Grapes (clockwise from top): red Aki Queen (Autumn Queen), purple izumi-nishiki, green beni-fuji, black kyoho. There’s not really anything in this picture to give you a sense of the size of them; that’s a pretty big basket though. For an idea of how big they are, check out the picture of the Takatsuma variety at the bottom of this post.
A few weeks ago, we went back to Noriko’s grape farm in Yoshioka. I had hoped to see the greenhouse a riot of different colored and shaped grapes; lovely clusters hanging from the gnarled vines. I was surprised to see that many of the vines were bare except for their green leaves. Of course! I realized, each of the varieties ripens in succession, which allows for a long harvest season. The vines that were bearing fruit had little white paper umbrellas draped over each perfect bunch, so instead of vines laden with fruit, there were vines dotted with paper umbrellas. We wandered into the greenhouse, passing the already harvested vines on our way to the far corner of the greenhouse, where the grapes that I had pruned earlier in the season were growing. Finally we found them: one paper umbrella with ローレル written in black marker on it. There it was, my bunch of grapes. I peeked under the paper hat: they were giant, nearly black, and very round. I clipped my grapes from the vine and held them up proudly.
On our way back to the entrance we saw Yoshi’s mom, who was working at the grape farm that day. “Beni-fuji” she said, popping grapes off of a bunch and into our hands. The green grapes were sweet and delicious. Baby Shoma stretched out his hands for a grape. Into his mouth it went, as he stretched out his hands for another.
Back by the seating and sales area, we trimmed the stem on my bunch of grapes and wrapped them in a special bag just for grapes. We taped on a label “Izumi-nishiki.” I was surprised to learn that the Izumi-nishiki grapes are sold for 2000 yen a kilogram! Wow!
Then our friend Tomomi bought some grapes to send to her family. While she filled out the forms for delivery, we sat at the table and watched Shoma play. Noriko brought over some grapes for us to eat. Shoma saw the grapes and opened his palms for one after another. He loved the grapes, though it seemed like some of the bigger ones would barely fit into his mouth. We snacked on the black Kyoho and red Aki Queen.
The Aki Queen were delicious, so I decided to buy a bunch. “Are you sure?” Noriko and Yoshi’s mom asked, “They’re too expensive.” But I like to support local farmers, especially since they’re our friends. “Of course,” I said. Later, as we were preparing to leave our friends tucked more bunches of grapes into our bags. Later still, Tomomi traded my one bunch for her two, saying, “I can get them anytime.”
So after our trip to the farm, we made our way home with not one, but four bunches of lovely grapes to try.
All of the grapes were very good, with different flavors, but my favorite was the Izumi-nishiki, which had a lovely flavor and good balance of sweet and sour. The grapes had a firm texture (which I really like-I can’t stand mushy fruit) and the largest ones were nearly the size of ping-pong balls. My second favorite were the red Aki Queens. They had a more tart and tangy flavor and was really firm. Beni-fuji was sweet and juicy, but a little softer. The kyoho were similar to the Izumi-nishiki, but with less punch: they were good, but next to the others, they just couldn’t compare.
Last week Tomomi brought us another late-season variety to try: Takatsuma. These ones were also very tasty, not to mention huge! I love the beautiful garnet color too.
Takatsuma grapes. I held them to give a sense of the size of the grapes. Instead of making the grapes look big, it seems like they make my hands look small. Trust me, those are my hands, not tiny baby hands; those grapes are huge! Aren’t they beautiful?
Copyright 2008 LMS