Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wild grapes

When we first visited the home we live in now, it was a foreclosure house with an overgrown yard. (Now it's a paid-off house with an overgrown yard.)

As I wandered through the yard, I wasn't all that impressed by the variety of plants. There was some liriope grass, a few sad crepe myrtles, oaks, a magnolia, a sweet gum and a variety of weeds like begger tick and dog fennel. Not really inspiring... except for along one fence, where there were clusters of tart black grapes. Wild muscadines!

The kids and I ate a few during that visit, then basically forgot about the plants.

Now, however, we've really started looking forward to the harvests we get. Every year, a few giant wild grape vines along the fence produce a few gallons of grapes within reach... plus a few more gallons we can't reach. (My oldest son jokes that the high-up ones are sour anyways so we shouldn't worry about trying to get them.)

Last week, we spent a couple of hours on a lovely afternoon picking grapes. I'd been sitting at my computer for way too long, trying to get some work done... and then the thought came into my head "Hey, how about picking grapes."

So the screen went off, I gathered up Rachel and the children, the baskets came out... and we picked. It was wonderful.

Some people make wild muscadines into wine. I haven't done that for two reasons:

      1. I consistently fail at winemaking
      2. I'm too lazy to try again

Instead, we render our wild grapes into wild grape jam.

In French, the finished jars are called "Cadeaux de Noël, à partir de rachitique homesteaders." Or something like that.

This is the time of year to seek out wild grapes in North Florida. Keep your eyes open - some are still ripening - but they won't be here for long.

As a final note, Rachel is going to post her jam-making process tomorrow.

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At September 5, 2013 at 5:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the wild ones, too--though am not very fond of the golden ones. Named cultivars are allegedly a lot better; I'm going to try to get my hands on some to try.

At September 5, 2013 at 6:42 PM , Blogger Ten at Eat Your Sands said...

i make wine. however, it doesn't taste like california wine, so a lot of people think it's a failure. the last batch i made was welch's grape juice wine, from frozen concentrate grape juice. i think 4 gallons cost about $15. that's a lot of bottles. it tastes...strange... like everything else i enjoy.
if you tell me your process i might be able to help you troubleshoot, if you're interested.
also i'm totally jealous that your grapes actually make grapes. my vines must be too young yet.

At September 6, 2013 at 6:51 AM , Blogger Doug Calvin said...

I have the native Florida Muscadine vines all over my yard. I have only seen
a couple unripened grapes on the vines but never any ripe. I thought the
squirrels might be getting them but the Extension guy said the vines need to
be trellised and tended to to produce.

At September 6, 2013 at 8:57 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

No - he's not quite right. Trellising isn't necessary, it's just helpful for harvest.

The real problem, as I've heard it explained, is that there are about 10 male plants to each female plant. Thanks to this, most of the wild grapes bloom but don't fruit. If you do have a fruiting specimen, you could cut it back and give it a hit of 10-10-10 or compost in February or so, before it leafs out. That might help.

We wander our neighborhood looking for wild grapes... and the ratio does seem to be about 10-1.

At February 10, 2014 at 2:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grow Muscadine Grapes and sell them annually at local Farmers Markets and have a Locally Grown Market in Tallahassee that sells our grapes from July thru October every year with great success. I make lots of wine with them also and the secret is using the correct yeast. Do not use bread yeast that you purchase in the grocery store but only wine yeast. Contact me at if you are interested in more information on the sweetheart grape of the South, the Muscadine!! They make a great pie also!!

At February 10, 2014 at 5:14 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Thank you.


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