Breeding Berries

In rural California, David Cain is a fruit breeder. His job is to combine characteristics of grapes. They have developed varieties with enough sugar that they may as well be Skittles on the vine. Cain's latest invention is called the Cotton Candy grape. Ordinary grapes can cost as little as 88 cents per pound. The Cotton Candy could fetch around $6 a pound. Prices would come down if enough farmers grow the grape. Some of these bred berries have cousin fruits with weird names like, apriums; a pluot but with more apricot in it, peacharines; peach and nectarine, and cherums; cherry and plum. Researchers from the University of Arkansas were showing off a purple Concord grape that didn’t look like much. The flesh was mushy and speckled with tiny seeds. The skin slipped off easily after biting, a no no in the grape business. But the cotton candy flavor transported Cain to a carnival or county fair. International Fruit Genetics signed a licensing agreement with the University of Arkansas. In 2003, Cain was breeding their grapes with a dozen California varieties on his test field. He married the Concord to a green grape called Princess, a variety developed by the USDA. The Cotton Candy was patented in 2010. A Bakersfield grower is set to harvest the first large crop in August.