Local Food Buyer Learning Center
Helping food service professionals overcome obstacles and successfully purchase food grown in New York
New York Food Guide: Concord Grapes
Bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or take a swig of grape juice and you will instantly recognize the familiar flavor of Concord grapes. As the second largest grower of Concord grapes in the nation, New York has just the right climate and soil conditions to grow this popular grape varietal. These sweet, tangy fruits are integral to New York’s history and economy, and certainly deserve a place on every institutional menu! Whether served in juice, jelly, pies, or savory entrées, Concord grapes are a hit with all diners and will become a regular on meal menus year-round.
New York Grown Food Guides offer information and resources to support institutions in identifying, sourcing, and procuring local foods from the state. The guides, along with the Farm to Institution New York State Local Food Buyer Learning Center toolkit, equip food service and procurement staff with education and training to incorporate local products into meals to improve the health of New Yorkers and local economies statewide.
Download the pdf of the Concord Grapes Guide and the Concord Grapes Poster
Grapeful for Knowledge: Concord Grape Facts
In 2018, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets convened the first-ever New York State Concord Grape Summit to revitalize and expand the state’s Concord grape industry. Farmers, researchers and industry leaders met with state officials to identify industry growth challenges and explore new opportunities for Concord grape growers in New York State. To elaborate on the importance of this fine fruit and how it supports New York’s local economies, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has created a short film: https://youtu.be/k-qoWnO_27Y
- A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus Vitis.1
- Concord grapes, classified as Vitis labrusca, contain a chemical compound known as methyl anthranilate, which is used to give soft drinks and candy its grape flavor.
- Named after their city of origin, Concord, Massachusetts, Concord grapes have been a part of American viticulture since 1854 and have wild, native, New England ancestors.
- Concord grapes are one of the oldest domestically cultivated grapes grown today and are responsible for making valueadded products such as grape juice, wine, and jelly. 2
- New York is the second largest producer of Concord grapes in the U.S. Each year in New York, growers in the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt produce 121,000 tons or more of Concord grapes on 30,000 acres of vineyards. 3
- Grape-related production activities like growing, processing, and winemaking support nearly 2,000 jobs and contribute $340 million in total economic impact in New York State. 4
- Did you know that New York has its own Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, NY? The Grape Discovery Center is the official Visitor’s Center for the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, designated a New York State Heritage Area in 2006.
- Developed by the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association, it seeks to be an experiential destination that supports and promotes the grape industry through sharing stories and engaging, educating, and informing the public about all things grape. 5
Product Availability, Pack Sizes, and Fruit Quality Characteristics
Concord grapes are a cyclical-type plant with crop yields averaging around six tons per acre. However, yields are impacted not only by weather and growing conditions but also by production trends.8 Concord grapes make up 80 percent of all grapes produced in New York, with the majority of the harvested fruit dedicated to juice. While available fresh in retail stores and farmers markets for out-of-hand eating and mouth-watering grape pies, Concord grapes for institutional markets are most practical in products such as juice, jelly, jams, concentrates, slushies, and smoothies.
The selection and procurement of fresh Concord grapes is determined by knowledge of quality characteristics of the fruit. The information below identifies selection criteria and storage best practices.
Cornell AgriTech has developed the Everest Seedless, a new table grape with Concord flavors that is double in size, seedless, and ready for eating out of hand. Announced in 2018, this new grape offers another option for grape growers around New York.*
When selecting fresh Concord grapes, look for:
- Grapes should be plump, not shriveled, with consistent color throughout the entire fruit. Check the base of the stem to ensure firmness. Concord grapes are a “slip-skin” variety with a thick, rather than thin skin (unlike a table grape).
- Stems should be green and pliable and not brown, brittle, or dried out.
- Avoid grapes that have accumulated excess moisture inside the bag as they will be susceptible to mold and/or rot.
- Concord grapes should have a white- to silver-colored dust called bloom that ensures the fruit is protected from dirt and moisture.
- The majority of grapes should be securely attached to the stem, not scattered in the bag.
- Do not wash grapes before storing and until ready to use.
- Keep grapes in original packaging. Grape storage bags are specifically designed to protect fruit and ensure adequate ventilation.
- Ideal temperature held at 30–32°F.
- Ideal humidity at 90–95%.
- Store in a protected area with limited air flow to limit dehydration.
- Do not store grapes around strong smelling items such as onions and leeks to prevent odor absorption.
- Shelf life of 1–2 weeks in cooler; longer shelf life if frozen.
- Grapes are non-ethylene gas sensitive and ripening will not be affected by exposure from other ethylene-producing produce (apples, bananas, tomatoes). 9
New York Concord Grape Products and Information
Below are several Concord grape products available for institutional purchase. Product availability, sizes,
and quantities are all subject to change, and we encourage you to confirm with distributors for updated
products and ordering information.
Below you will find information on sourcing New York Concord grape products. Distributors’
contacts are subject to change, and we encourage you to reach out to vendors directly to confirm
availability and ordering procedures.
Full Service (Broadline) Distributors
Sysco Albany (518-877-3200)
Sysco Long Island (631-342-7400)
Sysco Metro New York (201-433-2000)
Sysco Syracuse (315-672-7000 or 800-736-6000)
Ginsberg Foods Inc. (518-828-4004 or 800-999-6006)
Latina Boulevard Foods (716.656.8400)
Renzi Foodservice (315-788-5610 or 1-800-633-4311)
Preparation Suggestions and Recipes
- Mix grape juice and gelatin for healthy “grape squares” dessert.
- Combine grape juice and frozen yogurt or frozen bananas for a healthy “Purple Cow” smoothie.
- Combine grape juice or jelly and peanut butter/sunflower seed butter, yogurt, milk, and bananas for a stunningly delicious PB & J smoothie.
- Simmer grape juice down with lime juice, lime zest, and grated ginger and drizzle over berries or fruit salad for a tropical twist.
- Add berry seltzer with Concord grape juice for a celebratory sparkling beverage.
- Reduce grape juice down to replicate a version of mosto cotto or saba, an ancient Italian condiment produced as a byproduct of balsamic vinegar. This sauce can be used to add complexity and sweetness to meat dishes, or drizzled on vegetables to give a flavor boost.
- Make a Monte Cristo sandwich with ham, Swiss or Cheddar cheese, and grape jelly.
- Add a grape jelly glaze to BBQ chicken, in sweet and sour meatballs, or slow cooked with smoked sausages.
Case Study: New York Concord Grapes to Schools Project
As you can see from the photos, students enthusiastically participated
in the festivities and the grape juice was a hit!
In spring of 2019, American Farmland Trust, as part of the collaborative initiative Farm to Institution New York State, joined students, teachers, and other staff at Armor Elementary School in Hamburg Central School District for a special New York Thursdays lunch. Hamburg is one of 10 school districts across the state that featured a taste test of New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice as part of the Grape-to-School Pilot Program.
Developed in partnership with the state of New York, Grape-to-School built upon existing Farm to School and No Student Goes Hungry initiatives in New York to help introduce New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice to schools as an additional option to help reach their New York grown foods purchasing goals.
Taste testing new local products, like the New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice, creates a low-pressure
environment for both students and food service staff to promote a school culture of food curiosity and ultimately expand their school lunch menu. By offering smaller portions of new and potential menu items, taste tests increase the likelihood that students will try something new.
Taste tests are especially effective when coupled with educational programming about the new food item or opportunities for students to participate in preparation. A review process at the end of a taste test—asking students to vote on whether or not they liked the taste test item—gives students agency over their school meal options and gives the school food service staff confidence in which new items would do well on the lunch menu.
In Hamburg, the featured “Growing Grape” juice cups, processed by New York Juice Company with Concord grapes sourced from Westfield Maid Cooperative, were part of a locally-sourced lunch that included beef hot dogs from Slate Foods and milk from Upstate Farms—both also New York Grown and Certified—Marquart Farms’ New York Chips, and Bandit Beans from the Genesee Valley Bean Company. The event, organized by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in collaboration with Hamburg Central Schools and American Farmland Trust, brought together representatives from the office of NYS Assembly member Sean Ryan, Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest NY, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, and Slate Foods to help hand out samples and talk to students about farm to school.
Grapes in the Classroom
- California Table Grape Commission lesson plans for K–12 schools
- New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Produce Cards, including grape facts
- Grape Lesson created by the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food,
- Education & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University in conjunction with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Farm to School Program for the First Lady’s Challenge “Healthy Steps to
- Oregon Harvest for Schools campaign featuring grape promotional and educational materials for classroom use
- SNAP-Ed grape information
Concord Grape Resources
Farm to Institution Resources
- New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
- New York State Department of Education Farm to School
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York
- Local and Regional Food Systems at Cornell
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Program
- New York State Farm to School Work Group
- New York Farm Bureau
- Northeast Organic Farming Association
- National Resources Conservation Service
- Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship
- Adirondack North Country Association
- Adirondack Farm to School Initiative
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County Farm to School
- Food & Health Network of South Central New York
- Capital Roots
Food Hubs & Aggregators
1 Wikipedia contributors. (2019, August 28). Grape. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:54, September 17, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Grape&oldid=912838118
3 https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AD/release.asp?ReleaseID=3725 New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to Promote New York Concord Grape Industry at National Restaurant Association Trade Show in Chicago Press Release—5/18/2018, New York Department of Agriculture and Markets.