Shocking Blue

Monday, July 14, 2014

I know what many of you are thinking. "Hey, when did somebody do a remake of that Bananarama song?" But, for some strange and odd duck reason, I'm a fan of showing my true age. Which is old. Because this is the best version of "Venus," and it was released while many members of Bananarama were still in ponytail stage.

Venus Table Grapes-Bird Back 40
Yes -- Bananarama ripped "Venus" off from Shocking Blue -- not the other way around. And the version of this song -- plus the name of the Dutch band -- has been bouncing around in my head ever since the start of the Venus Table Grape harvest some two weeks ago.

Why? Why would you ask that? OK -- I'll answer. Besides the obvious (the table grape in question is named Venus, duh), Venus grapes are a shocking blue-purple in color. Perhaps now you'll understand? Oh -- that and I can eat Venus Table Grapes until the cows come home and still not come close to finishing what is still hanging on the Venus vine. Plus -- the thieving mockingbirds and robins who raid the vine with Exlax-like regularity can eat their fill and still not come close to finishing off the stash.

Venus on the Vine-Bird Back 40
If the next question is, "why not just give them away," my response is this: I have been. I've been unloading enough Venus table grapes for neighbors to suddenly slam the door shut and lock it when they see me coming. While they are fans of the Venus -- there is something called "too much of a good thing." Two pounds of Venus grapes make for a nice gift. Four pounds wears out the welcome, if you get my drift.

Is Venus the best tasting table grape I've ever had? No -- that honor still goes to Fantasy grape. That is another shocking blue-purple grape that is still ripening on the vine and will be ready for harvest at some point next month. In fact, that's when most California table grapes start to ripen: August. That's what makes Venus so very special. Venus ripens in late June, stores on the vine very well (doesn't spoil) and produces a harvest so ridiculously large and bountiful that you'll be munching on Venus for at least two to three weeks (or longer).

Venus Grapes: Here, There, Everywhere
I suppose if I leave on the vine any longer I'll be munching on Venus raisins.

By that time even the thieving and marauding birds will have tired of it. No wonder they seem to be casting a longing glance at the Flavor Finale pluot tree. Because man, nor bird, does not live by Venus grape alone.

Another interesting fact about the Venus is it's one of the rare California table grape varieties that wasn't born nor bred in California. Nope -- the Venus hails from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. It's prized by wine growers. It also makes a great grape jelly. It's not the sweetest grape in the world -- and it features a slip skin trait. In other words, there's no crunch when you bite into it.

Venus Vine-Bird Back 40
Try as you might, you probably won't find the Venus in your local grocery store. Nor do I think you'll run across it at your local farmer's market. While I'm not sure as to why the Venus didn't catch on as a marketable table grape (most grapes are coming in from Mexico at the moment), my feeling is the slip-skin trait of this variety probably didn't do it any favors. In other words, I don't believe it would ship to well without spoiling.

No matter -- because there is one place where the Venus has earned its rightful home as a reliable and hardy fruit producer: the Bird Back 40.

Mariska Veres-1970
POSTSCRIPT: Unfortunately, while researching for this blog posting I would come to learn that the lead singer of Shocking Blue, Mariska Veres, died from cancer in December, 2006 at the young age of 59. Although Veres was regarded as a sex-symbol during her years with Shocking Blue, she reportedly told the members of the band when she joined that relationships were out. Reflecting on her early fame, Veres told the Belgian magazine Flair: "I was just a painted doll, nobody could ever reach me. Nowadays, I am more open to people."

Unlike sex symbols and rock stars from her era, Veres didn't smoke, didn't do drugs and didn't drink. In fact, her drink of choice, up until the day she died, was tea.

And for you younger folks who have since joined us -- here's the version of "Venus" that you remember best:

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