Two cultivars of table grapes commonly found in grocery stores are Thompson Seedless, which has green berries, and Flame Seedless, which has mauve-colored fruit. These cultivars, as well as most of the other round red, purple, or black seedless grapes, are European cultivars of Vitis vinifera that are often grown in California. Probably the most familiar table grape grown in the Midwest is the purple Concord grape with its "foxy" flavor. It is an American cultivar of V. labrusca that is called a slip skin grape because its skin easily separates from the pulp of the berry. Less often, other locally-produced table grapes, such as Mars, Reliance, Saturn, etc. can be purchased at farmer's markets.
There are some uniquely shaped grapes that can be found in grocery stores in July. Some of these cultivars with elongated berries are called finger grapes. The cultivar Tear Drops is a type of finger grape that has reddish- purple elongated berries that are pointed at the tip (see https://grapery.biz/index.php/our-grapes/tear-drops for photo). This cultivar was first called Chili Pepper since its berries are shaped like a hot chili pepper. Another name for Tear Drops grapes is Witch Finger. However, since Chili Pepper and Witch Finger names were abandoned, the name Tear Drops was adopted for commercial sales. These grapes are grown in California and are difficult to grow since they are susceptible to high temperatures and wind injury. Also, these grapes are susceptible to shatter from the cluster both on the vine and after harvest. Thus, loose berries may be found in bagged clusters of this cultivar. However, Tear Drops grapes are crisp, sweet, and are a fun alternative to more traditional round-shaped berries. Tear Drops are available in stores from about July 20th to August 20th.
If you miss the Tear Drops, look for Moon Drops in stores from August 20 through mid-November. This cultivar is a black, seedless grape with a distinctive shape. Moon Drops grapes have a cylindrical shape with a dimple-like indentation on the blunt end of the berry. Moon Drops berries are large, firm, and very sweet (Figure 1). Several other grape varieties with elongated berries exist, but are not yet widely available in stores.
The first finger grape released in North America was Lady Patricia by H.C. Barrett at the University of Illinois in 1968. The original cross, Seibel 14664 x Seyve Villard 20365 was made in 1951, resulting in gold berries with elongated berries tapering to a point with clusters ripening in September. This cultivar was later used as a breeding parent to develop Remaily Seedless at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Lady Patricia was also used in the University of Arkansas breeding program to develop table grape cultivars such as Faith, Hope, Joy, and Gratitude. The more recent releases of Tear Drops and Moon Drops are from a private company, IFG.
Tear Drops and Moon Drops grapevines are only available to licensed growers. However, other cultivars with less exaggerated berry elongation, such as Lady Patricia and Calmeria, are available from nurseries. However, vines of these cultivars are not reliably winter hardy in Missouri and may not consistently produce fruit. Other table grapes cultivars are better adapted to Missouri's climate but tend to be challenging to grow. In spite of this, you can always purchase grapes and enjoy their many flavors this season!
REVISED: July 22, 2019