2017-09-21 / From The Garden

Harvesting Your Own Delicious Table Grapes

By Cynthia Gibson


ABOVE: Seedless Hope grapes. BELOW: Netted grape vines will keep bird, squirrel and raccoon scavengers away from ripe backyard grape vines. 
(Photos by Cynthia Gibson). ABOVE: Seedless Hope grapes. BELOW: Netted grape vines will keep bird, squirrel and raccoon scavengers away from ripe backyard grape vines. (Photos by Cynthia Gibson). Not all fruit of the grapevine is for wine. The varieties of table grapes that can be grown on a fence, wall, trellis or arch are endless. If you are tired of eating the bland-tasting seedless grapes from the supermarket, there are choices.

I planted my first table grapes two years ago from viticulturists’ recommendations. I wanted one seedless and one seeded table grape. The two varieties I chose were Swenson’s Red, which has seeds, and Hope, a green seedless table grape. It was great to find grapes that did not taste like grape juice. Table grapes have a non-slip skin, meaning you eat the entire grape and the skin will not peel off like a Concord grape. Once grapes start producing, they will continue to grow, year after year. Swenson’s Red grows quickly and will fruit its second year in the ground. The vines are wild and the grape will grow best when pruned and fertilized in March, before the leaf buds appear. They can be pruned back hard to about one foot above ground. Growth will take off by June and continue until the end of August. Swenson’s Red can be harvested in early September.

By the third or fourth year, the vine will produce more clusters of table grapes than you know what to do with. The fruit of the vines of Swenson’s Red are pure sugar bombs. These grapes make a delicious dessert grape, but remember to remove the seeds. They also make a fantastic clear, light purple jelly.

We can thank Elmer Swenson for this fabulous grape. Over a 60-year period, Swenson created thousands of cold, hardy table grape hybrids that were also disease resistant. A grape grower’s dream come true! I have never had to spray my table grapes.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Green grapes are commercially referred to as white grapes. Hope, a white grape not found in the supermarket, grows in a most unusual fashion. The individual grapes are not the usual round orb, but are elliptical or oval. They grow into a beautiful, lovely cluster. The vines are moderate and grow much slower than Swenson’s Red. But they are worth the wait. You will see the difference when the flowers drop from the clusters. The tiny grapes that remain are pointed, as opposed to the round shape of Swenson’s Red grapes. But both grapes are superior to any in the supermarket.

Hope grapes should be eaten only when fresh. The clusters are so elegant that you will want to place them in a silver bowl or compote dish to display them. The grape is a beautiful, chartreuse green that is also iridescent. They were created for cold midwestern winters. That makes them a perfect grape to grow in Rhode Island. They are a hybrid from the University of Arkansas Table Grape Breeding Program.

Hope are picked or cut in mid- September. You will have to net them, as birds find them very tasty. If there are raccoons and squirrels in your neighborhood, you will be fighting them for your grapes. I net my grapes, and then net them a second time. This seems to deter the raccoons and squirrels.

The grapes are also very sweet and excellent at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sliced in half, they are delicious in a fruit or chicken salad. Table grapes, like most of the berries and apples you might grow, will give you bragging rights!

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