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Japanese Muscat Grapes
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Japanese Muscat grapes are generally green in color, although some varieties may be red. They are known for their sweetness, and for their large berries that can weigh up to 15 grams. They are comparable to the kyoho grape, whose berries can grow to the size of plums. Japanese Muscat grapes are bred to be seedless. All Japanese Muscat grapes grow on thick vines with large leaves that are a vibrant green in color.
Japanese Muscat grapes are available from spring through late fall.
Japanese Muscat grapes are botanically classified under the Vitis vinifera family. There are over 200 types of Muscat grapes found around the world. Japanese Muscat grapes are bred to be large and very sweet – they come in at around 18 brix, which is a measurement for the sugar levels in produce. A popular Muscat table grape in Japan is the Shine Muscat, which came to Japanese markets around 2003. Shine Muscat grapes are known for their large, yellow-green or purple berries and crisp, candy-like flesh with floral notes. Another variety, the Japanese Muscat Bailey-A, is a deep pink-skinned variety developed in the 1920s by Kawakami Zenbei, and is credited as the grandfather of Japanese wines. It is still commonly used to produce light, fruity red wines in Japan.
Japanese Muscat grapes are a good source of vitamins C, K and B6 . They also contain magnesium, iron and potassium.
Japanese Muscat grapes are best eaten fresh. Japanese Muscat grapes can also been used as a topping for desserts such as fruit tarts, as a flavoring of gelato, and in fruit parfaits. They are also commonly used to make wine. Japanese Muscat grapes will often come carefully wrapped in plastic. Keep the grapes in their original packaging in the refrigerator, where they may last as long as a week.
The Muscat grape in Japan is extremely popular, as the Japanese prefer large berries to small ones. When in season, the Japanese Muscat grape may cost anywhere between 2000 to 10,000 Japanese Yen, when other grapes may go for as little as 1000 Japanese Yen. Japanese Muscat grapes are often presented in expensive fruit boxes, which are given as gifts to colleagues, friends or relatives.
Muscat grapes are the oldest known domesticated variety of grape in the world. They are thought to have originated in Greece, and have been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for over 3,000 years. Japanese Muscat grapes are derived from the European Muscat grape, but have a distinctly Japanese history, since the Japanese created their own hybrids after importing various Western vines in the Meiji era (1868 - 1912). The Japanese began to delve into winemaking, and various private breeders have since experimented with cross-breeding the Muscat grape to create new varietals and hybrids that are tasty, but also resistant to diseases. Okayama and Yamanashi Prefectures are two areas in Japan known for Japanese Muscat grape cultivation. Japanese Muscat grapes, particularly the Shine Muscat, is also being cultivated in South Korea. Japanese Muscat grapes can be found for sale around Asia, where they are sold in specialty shops as expensive imported fruit.