Taste some Japanese grapes growing in Ventura

At a farm in the Ventura town of Fillmore, a family is growing Japanese table grapes. Like Concord grapes, they are big and juicy. But, they have a unique flavor and aroma.

You can find Magical Grapes at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, but not for long since the season only lasts about a month. Our market host Katie Hershfelt spoke with grower Seiji Morimoto and sampled his fruits.

Seiji Morimoto lives at his farm in Fillmore with his wife and kids. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

Japanese table grapes are a cross breed of American grapes and European grapes. Morimoto’s dad brought them to Ventura decades ago, when he bought land in Fillmore and started a farm.

“My dad has a fruit business in Japan, so I grew up naturally learning from him,” said Morimoto, who took over his father’s farm in 2012.

He is selling two grape varieties at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market – Black Beat and Shinano Smile – as well as Japanese pears. In Japan, it’s common to give fruit to friends, family members and bosses as a gift, oftentimes in a beautiful, wooden box.

Also, in Japan, most people don’t eat the grape skin. “We suck and pop the inside,” said Morimoto. “But, American people love to eat skin because it has good nutrients. We were surprised when we came here the first time!”

Magical Grapes will be selling at the Saturday market for the next two or three weeks.

The grapes grow inside of paper bags, which protect them from bees, dust and too much direct sun. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Once Morimoto takes the grapes out of the bag, he cleans each bunch. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Morimoto washes the grapes with a paintbrush, since they’re so delicate. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
The Shinano Smile variety is red, juicy and the skin comes off easily. Black Beat varieties are dark purple in color and more complex, with a thicker skin. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Morimoto also grows Japanese pears, which are light in flavor and crisp in texture. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Many people stopping by the stand had never tried Japanese grapes. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

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