Back in the carefree, racist, Hazmat-filled days of 1964, Pillsbury decided to take on a soft-drink behemoth that has since acquired a second, political, meaning (Kool-Aid®) with a series of imitation drink mixes of their own: “Funny Face.”
There were initially six iterations of Funny Face, two of which (Injun Orange and Chinese Cherry) were promptly withdrawn because they were have adjudged to have exceeded even the racist norms of their time, and it was a time when many people actually got embarrassed about creating racist memes. Further scorn was heaped on the product when it was discovered to have been sweetened with cyclamates, which were declared a carcinogen and banned in America in 1970. But Goofy Grape was my fave Funny Face drink, cancer be damned.
At that time, Thompson Seedless green grapes were pretty much the only seedless variety to have penetrated the market, but since then, several horticultural entities have stepped up to attempt to unseat the Thompson. For instance, the University of Alabama (!) has developed several varieties, many of which (Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, etc.) are named after planets. [Not particularly surprised they didn’t name a grape after Uranus.]
On the private side, a producer known as Grapery® was, and is, bringing a little magic to the market in totally unexpected ways. Owners Jack Pandol and Jim Beagle of Grapery® both grew up in commercial ag; in fact, Pandol’s grandfather Stjepe emigrated from his native Croatia at the early 1900’s and farmed his first vineyard in California’s San Joaquin Valley not far from where Grapery®’s vineyards now stand.
The grapes, many of which look surprisingly, um, unusual are all non-GMO. And the shapes and flavours! Oh my.
My favourite is a variety the bride brought home today and is only available for about 6-8 weeks each year. Cotton Candy® grapes look pretty much like your standard Thompson Seedless, but they embody that ephemeral sweetness for which cotton candy is famed. I also found some Moon Drops® at the local super; they seem — to me anyway — to have a more distinctive shape than taste, but they’ll definitely liven up a salad visually.
Like any crop, it has a limited harvest, so git while the gittin’ is good. There’s just no substitute, and they’re worth getting goofy over.