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Japanese Muscat Grapes
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Japanese muscat grapes are medium to large in size and oval to oblong in shape, growing in medium-sized clusters. The smooth, glossy skin can range in color from bright green to shades of red and is firm to the touch. The flesh is generally translucent and seedless, though some grapes may contain small undeveloped seeds that are undetectable when consumed. Japanese muscat grapes are crunchy and are known for their sweet taste. They grow on thick vines with large leaves that are a vibrant green.
Japanese muscat grapes are available from spring through late fall.
Japanese muscat grapes, botanically classified as Vitis vinifera, is a name used to include a number of varieties that were created in Japan. Japanese muscat grapes are bred to be large and very sweet, averaging 18 Brix, which is a measurement used for the sugar levels in produce. A popular muscat table grape in Japan is the Shine muscat, which was released to Japanese markets around 2003. Shine muscat grapes are known for their large, yellow-green or purple berries and crisp, candy-like, seedless flesh with floral notes. Another variety, the Japanese muscat Bailey-A, is a deep pink-skinned variety developed in the 1920s by Kawakami Zenbei who is credited as the grandfather of Japanese wines. It is still one of Japan’s most popular wine grapes and is commonly used to produce light, fruity red wines.
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 suited for raw consumption as their seedless quality and no peel skin makes them appropriate as a table grape. They are used as a topping for desserts such as fruit tarts and ice cream, as a flavoring of gelato, and in fruit parfaits. Japanese muscat grapes are also commonly used to make light, sweet wines. These sweet grapes pair well with foods that have spicy, salty, sour, or bitter flavors and this includes curries, meats such as prosciutto or salami, almonds, peanuts, carrots, celery, cucumber, and cheeses such as blue cheese or brie. Japanese muscat grapes will often come carefully wrapped in plastic, and they can be kept up to one week when stored in the original packaging in the refrigerator.
In Japan, the muscat grape is extremely popular as the Japanese prefer large, seedless berries to small ones. When in season, the Japanese muscat grape may cost anywhere between 2,000 to 10,000 Japanese Yen, while other grapes may go for as little as 1,000 Japanese Yen. Japanese muscat grapes are often presented in expensive fruit boxes, which are given as gifts to colleagues, friends, or relatives. Japanese muscat grapes, such as the Shine muscat, are also becoming popular overseas for their quality and long shelf life and are largely being imported to Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The exact origins of muscat grapes are unknown, but they are believed to have originated in Greece or Italy and have been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for over 3,000 years. Japanese muscat grapes are derived from the European muscat grape, but the Japanese created their own hybrids after importing various western vines in the Meiji era (1868 - 1912). The Japanese then 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 flavorful, but also resistant to diseases. Japanese muscat grapes can be found at specialty markets across Asia including South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, where they are sold as expensive imported fruit.