When they’re at their best—plump and bursting with sweetness—grapes are so refreshing. Yet I hesitate when the grapes in my fridge become a little wrinkly and dull. Is it still OK to eat them when they’re less than perfect and just how do you keep grapes from going bad so quickly?
When Good Grapes Go Bad
Table grapes typically go bad when they are contaminated by microbes such as fungi, yeast, and bacteria.
“You can tell if they’ve gone bad by the smell (sour or vinegar-like), sight (shriveled, since grapes lose moisture as they age, brown in color, or oozing juice if the skin has cracked), or taste,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, CDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
You don’t have to taste them to know they’re destined for the compost bin—how they look and smell should stop you from ever putting bad grapes in your mouth.
If your grapes just have a frosty-looking white sheen to them, they are actually OK to eat. That powdery-looking coating—called bloom—is a natural substance that seals in the fruit’s moisture and protects against insects and bacteria.
How to Keep Grapes Fresh
First, make smart choices at the grocery store. When you’re shopping for grapes, look for ones that are plump and round and firmly attached to the stems. Don’t buy them if they are soft, sticky, discolored, or wrinkly.
Once you get them home, don’t wash grapes until you are ready to eat them. Washing produce adds moisture, which creates ideal conditions for spoilage. If you always wash your produce before you put it in the fridge, then be sure to dry it well first.
“Keep grapes in the back of your crisper drawer in the refrigerator, where it’s nice and cold, in a ventilated bag,” says Gentile. The one they come in at the store is a good choice or you can opt for a reusable cotton, mesh, or muslin bag.
Don’t store grapes near apples, avocados, tomatoes, or other types of produce that release ethylene. That’s a gas produced by some produce that can cause sensitive fruits and vegetables to ripen more quickly.
“You also want to pick off any grapes that look like they are starting to decay, as they will infect others on the stem,” Gentile says. “Stored this way, they could last up to three weeks.”
Can You Eat Bad Grapes?
Grapes that are moldy, shriveled, or oozing should be tossed into the compost pile. Eating moldy fruit can trigger respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, or allergic reactions.
“Most people will not experience these reactions if grapes are just a little past prime, but inspect your fruit carefully,” Gentile suggests. “Also, those at higher risk of food-born illness should not consume foods past their prime, like the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.”
But what if you have a whole crisper drawer full of grapes and you know you won’t finish them fast enough? I like to pop them in the freezer. That saves them before they go bad and better yet, creates a slushy, refreshing snack.