King of Grapes

How many of you readers are familiar with the deep purple, large globed grape known as kyoho? Kyoho, which can translate to "large mountain grapes," are considered the King of Grapes due to their size and unrivaled flavor. They were originally developed in Japan, but now they are also cultivated in California. Right now they are coming into season, with August through September when they are at the peak of their flavor. Here in the U.S., we are used to kyoho of a slightly paler hue than the Japanese originals, but regardless of color, their popularity is growing year by year. Let's focus on what makes these grapes stand out among all the rest.

History of Grapes

Let's first take a look at the history of grapes in general. Cultivation of wild grapes, found in many places throughout the world, has a long history. Cultivation of grapes for wine began in Europe as far back as 4,000 – 3,000 BCE. It is generally thought that grapes traveled from Europe to China via the Silk Road about 1 BCE and arrived in Japan around 700 AD.

There are a great many types of grapes, and it is currently said that over 10,000 varieties exist in the world today. A large number of American grapes, including Delaware, Campbell and Concord, are grown for eating raw, or to be processed as juice. In Europe, many grapes are cultivated for wine production, with distinguishing characteristics such as high sugar and acid content, and small sized globes. Of the world's entire grape yield, consumption is as follows: approximately 70% goes to wine production, 25% to the fresh market to be eaten raw, and the rest to making raisins, juice, canned products, etc.

History of Kyoho Grapes

The grapes that were eventually destined to become kyoho were a product of hybridization that began in Japan in 1937. It was the agronomist Ooinoue Yasushi who, after years and years of research, crossbred the Ishiharawase (an American variety) and Centennial (a European variety) to create a new type of grape of extraordinary size and sweetness.
It was the agronomist Yasushi Oinoue who, after years and years of research, created this large globed, sweet fleshed grape by crossbreeding the Japanese grape with American and European varieties. A successful hybrid was developed in 1942, and in 1946 the grapes were christened "kyoho." The name kyoho (kyo = large, -ho = peak) comes from the fact these brand-new, spectacular grapes were developed in a location where the majestic peak of Mt. Fuji was visible. It took a while for kyoho to come into its own and see the light of day, but finally, in 1957, full scale cultivation began, bringing kyoho grapes out of the lingering shadows of post-war chaos and into the groceries of Japan, and soon a large demand for them developed.

The skin of the Japanese kyoho grape is a deep purplish, sometimes near-black color, and the meat is a beautifully contrasting pale green. They are very juicy, with an elegant winey aroma and flavor, and the globes are almost extravagantly large, like small plums. Another distinctive feature is their strikingly high sugar content. Kyoho, eaten after peeling, is a slip-skin variety, meaning the skin separates easily from the fruit, making it extremely easy to peel. This is quite a boon, since the skin and seeds aren't eaten because they are both unpleasantly astringent. In Japan, kyoho grapes are the most popular variety of grapes in the country, making up approximately 60% of all grapes consumed fresh.

California Kyoho Grapes

The history of kyoho grapes in the U.S. began in Sanger, central California. Here, the environment is perfectly suited to raising grapes due to the fertile soil mix of earth and clay, meltwater rich in nutrients flowing down from the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and a dry season extending from spring until fall. In 1972, Thompson grapes, a yellow-ish green, seedless variety, were initially planted in the first grape plantation in this area.
The owner of the plantation subsequently decided to switch to the Japanese kyoho, and in 1975 the first kyoho was grafted onto Thompson stock, creating the hybrid that became the California kyoho grape.

After three long years of painstakingly raising these new kyoho vines, the developers were rewarded with fruit. They took these new grapes to restaurants and hotels, hoping to find a positive response. As good luck would have it, Americans were pleased with the extraordinarily large, beautifully colored grapes that had a distinctive sweet, winey flavor, and commercialization was soon off and running. In 1980, kyoho grapes, from three acres in Sanger, were shipped off to fruit stands and green grocers. After hitting the markets, California Kyoho gained a growing fan base and steady increasing demand. As a result, current acreage of kyoho plantations grew to sixty acres from the initial three.

Nutrients in Kyoho Grapes

In the dark purple skin and the seeds, there is a high level pf polyphenols, said to help protect the body against cancer and arteriosclerosis. Among the polyphenols, anythocyanins (the polyphenols that have red pigment) have been garnering notice due to the role they play in supporting ocular health. Kyoho also contain considerable amounts of resveratrol which, it was announced in 2012, helps to prevent outbreaks of food allergies. Furthermore, kyoho contain a lot of simple sugars like glucose and fructose which are quickly and easily absorbed by the body to produce energy. These sugars act as "brain food" and can be said to greatly contribute to fatigue recovery, making kyoho the perfect snack for those hot, energy depleting summer days.

How to Store & How to Eat Kyoho Grapes

The white powdery stuff you see on the surface of kyoho grapes is called "bloom." It's not mold, nor is it pesticide residue—it's a naturally occurring, harmless substance that helps protect the grapes against disease and moisture loss. It's said the more bloom, the fresher and tastier the grapes.

The best way to store kyoho at home is to put them, unwashed and still attached to the stem, in a plastic bag and put the bag in the fridge. Wetting the grapes hastens their demise, so rinse only before eating. Try and consume them within three days of purchase, and if you are unable to do so, it's recommended that you put the uneaten ones in the freezer. Gently separate individual grapes from the bunch, rinse, then freeze. To eat, thaw halfway- the skins will slip off really easily! The part of the grape directly underneath skin, or the outermost portion of the globe, is the most nutritious and delicious part of the grape, and here is how true the grape lover eats kyoho: first, pop the entire globe into your mouth, and gently press with your tongue—the skin should slip off easily. Then, lightly press on the skin to squeeze out the juice from the inner layer of the skin. Next, gently crush the globe and ever so elegantly spit the seeds and skin out. Once you get the hang of it, you'll realize it's a lot more fun than peeling the grapes with your fingers.

Marukai has the best selection of superior quality kyoho grapes at a great value. Beautiful to look at, and even more delicious to eat! What's a better way to beat the heat than to enjoy some icy-cold, juicy kyoho grapes?