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Mention cotton candy and most parents will 'tut tut' and shake their heads in disapproval. For while those wisps of spun sugar that melt in the mouth may be yummy, they have absolutely no nutritional value. But what if you could somehow incorporate that taste into something that your parents would thoroughly approve of? Say like grapes for instance? Think that's impossible? Read on . . .
California based horticulturist David Cain did not set out to create cotton candy flavored grapes. He and his team at International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield just wanted to provide customers with some choice in the flavor of grapes, similar to what they have when buying apples.
So in 2003, they began experimenting by cross breeding various wild grape varieties. This was no easy task given that the scientists wanted to create the new fruit without using genetic engineering.
Also, given that seedless grapes cannot reproduce on their own, breeding them is difficult. Each plant had to first be grown in a test tube in the lab and then planted in the vineyard. It took 100,000 test-tube grown plants and over eight years, before one with fruit that tasted just like cotton candy emerged.
The fact that that the grapes taste like the carnival treat - sweet with a hint of vanilla - is of course, a total coincidence, one that all of us are going to be eternally grateful for!
The first batch of cotton candy grapes was planted on just 2 acres of land at The Grapery in Bakersfield. They were so popular that the vinery dedicated 100 acres to the next batch. Given that it can still not keep up with demand, they have now decided to increase that to 200 acres in 2014.
The best part is the grapes are completely natural and while at five grams an ounce, the sugar content is 12% higher than normal grapes, they have less sugar than raisins and are definitely much healthier than cotton candy. Given the unusual taste and the limited quantity available, the grapes are a little steep, retailing anywhere from $6-$10USD a pound - But if the folks that have been lucky enough to get their hands on some are to believed, they are worth every penny.
As for David Cain and his team? They are just getting started! Next up are strawberry, pineapple and mango flavored grapes that are ready and waiting to be tested for commercial viability. They are also working on lollipop flavored grapes, and who knows one day maybe even a gummy worm flavored one? YUM!
Resources: NPR.org,newsfeed.time.com, odditycentral.com