Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wild grape juice and the walnut harvest.

Oh yes, the harvest season is in full swing! Monday I made my way up to my grape picking spot, and sure enough, several of the oldest vines were heavy with ripe, purple-blue wild grapes! I've never harvested enough grapes to do much with in the past, but my new spot is very rich. Many, many of the grape clusters were much too high for me to pick, so the birds will get their share too!
Now wild grapes, though they look sweet and plump are usually sour and astringent, and hardly suitable for just eating off the vine as a snack (but I can never resist popping a grape into my mouth now and then while I'm picking, even though it made my tounge raw!) Wild grapes are most often turned in juice, jelly or wine, the addition of a little bit of sugar to take the edge off the tartness, turns wild grape juice into the most delicious grapey-ist juice ever. Think Welches x 10. Intense, bursting with flavor, flavanoids, antioxidants and lots of blood enriching nutrients.
Of course, you can skip the sugar and add yeast instead (or save a few whole ripe grapes with the whitish coating for a source of wild yeast) and make wild wine! I can't quite decide if I want to ferment my quart of grape juice or sweeten it for drinking straight. I only know I wish I had more, lucky for me, there was a vine very heavy with fruit that was as yet unripe! I'll be going back for more soon!

To make grape juice from wild grapes, this is the process I followed:
First, I went ahead and stemmed the grapes, and removed any green or unripe fruits. (Some sites say you dont need to bother stemming them, up to you!)

Then I put our lovely grapes into a deep pan, with just enough water to prevent them from burning. I turned on the pan on medium to warm the fruits and help extract the juice. Mind you, don't boil the grapes, or cook them too long as you'll destroy some of the nutrients in the grapes (vitamins in particular), and some sources said boiling makes the juice bitter.

As the water and grape mixture is warming, begin to mash the grapes gently with a jar or meat tenderizer to break open the skins, and let the juices begin to flow. The water will take on the purple -ruby color of the grape skins, and you can turn the heat off.

Then, I let the juice/fruit mixture steep for several hours, and cool, before I began to strain through a mesh strainer. Cheesecloth will also work well, and allow you to squeeze lots of juice out of the grapes.

Press the grapes with the back of a spoon , or squeeze gently to get the juice, and collect in a large container. Save the juice in jars, and then proceed to either sweetening or making wine!
I saved my skins and seeds and froze them, along with my jar of juice, just in case I decide to make wine and want to add the skins to the fermenting container. Or if I'm really ambitious I'll separate skins from seeds and dry the seeds and grind them to sprinkle on foods. The seeds are full of antioxidants too like resveratrol, so I won't be tossing them out. Maybe I'll plant a few too.
If I make wine, I'll be sure to share my experience, though I'm going to wait a week or so to see if that vine ripens up and I can get more fruit!

On another note, the walnuts are ripe! I went out yesterday, expecting to see them turning dark on the branches, but I guess I was a hair late, because they had all fallen to the ground. I spent a good amount of time picking up walnuts from the sand in the wash, trying to get ones on which the black hull hadn't yet begun to rot, so I can use the hulls for medicine. Our native walnut trees are usually fairly prolific, but the nuts are very small, and the shells very hard! I have to give it a really good whack in the cement mortar and pestle to crack it open. I'll probably be spending a lot of time cracking nuts this week, as I still have acorns to crack as well! In fact, I should probably find some more time to get more walnuts while they are fresh on the ground and before the bugs get to them, and hopefully get more acorns too! So much to do during harvest season!


Anonymous said...

I saved the husks from about 6 walnuts, because I remember reading that they are a safe and effective laxative for pregnancy. (No, not pregnant myself.) Any other uses that I might want to save more husks for?
Also, the acorn thing got me curious. Are they useful for anything medicinally, or just for eating (I had my first taste of one a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to find them not bad at all!)?
Thanks for your time. I love keeping up with your blog through Reader. :)

Shamana Flora said...

Hrm, I wouldn't personally use walnut in pregnancy. Generally any laxative could be problematic if it stimulates peristalsis (which can stimulate uterine contractions).
I may be overly cautious, but there ya go. Constipation in pregnancy needs to be dealt with, and often simple dietary changes, or a check on iron supplements can really make a difference. I have used a blend of dandelion, burdock and yellow dock, as a decoction, in pregnancy with constipation.

Other uses of Walnut I've discussed in another post this summer, It's a nice digestive system remedy, very versatile, but strong ( hence not using in pregnancy).

Acorns, I don't use them medicinally, since they taste so good as food, but they are considered astringent, so may be useful for mild cases of diarrhea, or as a wash for burns and irritations on the skin. But, I'd probably use the oak leaves, rather than the acorns, which I save for eating.

What kind of acorn did you try? red or white? had it been leached of tannins? some kinds need leaching, some don't. Our native white oaks are sweet and need no leaching. :) I just roast them up and grind them to add to baked goods.
Yum yum yum!

Anonymous said...

Red acorn. :) It was not bitter at all, as I heard it would be, so I am assuming the tannins were absent or very little.
I will be going acorn hunting with my daughter this weekend now. :) Roasting does sound yummy! Oh! Actually, acorn-chocolate-chip cookies sound good, too... I wonder. Have you ever tried that before?

Thank you for the heads up about not using walnuts during pregnancy. I would rather be safe than sorry as well! (My husband is almost ready to try for another baby, so I am trying to prepare my medicine "chest" for such a time that I might need it.)

I remember reading your essay on eating healthfully during pregnancy. I am happy that I have resources online for herbal aids during pregnancy, your blog included, should that happen for me again. You are a true wealth of information.

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~