Cotton Candy grapes have met their match.
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I eat a lot of produce. Almost the entire left side of our fridge is devoted to fruits and veggies, yet there are thousands of produce varieties I haven't tasted. How could I possibly be expected to try all 7,500 varieties of apples in the world? Or the estimated 10,000 types of grapes? Last week I got to cross one untasted grape off my list. My husband returned from our local Sam's Club with a $9, 3-pound container of Candy Hearts grapes, and more than just their Valentine's-sounding name stood out. These red grapes had a sweet, floral aroma. (Pay attention next time you walk by grapes, you won't usually notice an aroma.) And after a quick wash, their distinct flavor had the entire family going gaga. It's not often a piece of fruit gets the three of us so fired up that we're making endorsing statements as though we're somehow particularly qualified to judge fruit. But why had I never seen Candy Hearts grapes before? Are they new? Will I eat them every day for the rest of my life? I found some answers.

Candy Heart grapes with grape plastic package in a kitchen
Credit: Courtesy of Sheena Chihak

What Are Candy Hearts Grapes?

Candy Hearts are a red specialty grape created by International Fruit Genetics (IFG). You guessed it, the same folks who brought the world Cotton Candy grapes and Moon Drop grapes. "Candy Hearts is like a second cousin to Cotton Candy," says Andy Higgins, CEO of IFG. Candy Hearts have some similar parents as Cotton Candy.

"What we've been doing with Cotton Candy and Candy Hearts and some of our other candy varieties is combining the vitis vinifera with North American grapes like vitis labrusca, which gives a lot of that kind of concord grape juice flavor essence into the fruit," Higgins says.

The first small planting (only 5 acres in California) of Candy Hearts was in 2014, so this grape didn't hit California markets until 2017, Higgins says. It takes two years to get a crop. "This season there will be a larger supply as the majority of the new growers planted in 2019," he explains.

Phew, that explains why I hadn't seen Candy Hearts before, I'm not just late to the game. They're quite new. And when you see them in stores snatch them up fast, you've got to taste them.

What Do Candy Hearts Grapes Taste Like?

Confession: I'm horrible at identifying flavor notes. I can determine ingredients within a recipe by tasting pretty well, but describing the flavor of an ingredient baffles me. The folks at IFG say the grapes are flavor-forward (possessing a dominant flavor) with hints of concord grape juice flavor and floral essence. The packaging for my Candy Hearts mentioned a hint of raspberry flavor, too. And according to the 17-year-old in our house, Candy Hearts are "even better than Cotton Candy."

"[Candy Hearts] is actually my favorite out of everything we have commercially," Higgins says. "It eats well, it's luscious, it has a little bit of acidity." It doesn't get sticky sweet like Cotton Candy does." I agree, I found myself easily gobbling a bowl of Candy Hearts and enjoying them more than Cotton Candy grapes.

"Cotton candy is a very strong familiar flavor profile and kids love it," says Higgins. But adults will eat a handful, not a bagful or a bowlful. "While we're excited about [Cotton Candy] and we sell more Cotton Candy today than we do Candy Hearts, we do know that the palate for Candy Hearts is much broader and much more applicable across all age groups," he continues.

Candy Heart grapes on the vine in a vineyard
Credit: Courtesy of IFG

When and Where Can I Find Candy Hearts Grapes?

Higgins says their goal is year-round access to the variety. "When the harvest season is over in the northern hemisphere, IFG has fruit arriving from its licensed growers in the southern hemisphere including Peru, Brazil, and Chile," says Higgins. "IFG supports all its growers of its varieties to produce good quality fruit all year round, providing a 52-week supply to consumers."

The Chile planting will be hitting market later this month into April, Higgins says, so keep your eyes peeled on your next grocery run so you can stock up for some healthy snacking.

The universe of grapes is expanding. "It's not just red, green, and black anymore," says Higgins. When I spoke to him, Higgins shared that they're working on seven more candy varieties right now, so while I may have crossed one variety off the to-try list, there are plenty more coming.

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