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!