Join me on a fun adventure foraging for wild grapes, then turning them into wild Grape Wine. Free all-natural food–how good is that!
How to Find Wild Grapes
Wherever you live, there are most likely grapes that grow wild. Exactly when they are ready to pick will depend on your climate.
Grapevines generally grow in the understory, on the edge of wooded or thickety areas. So, when scouting for grapes, look up around 10 feet. Perhaps the surest way to find wild grapes that are growing above your normal field of vision is to look on the ground. Birds, raccoons, and opossums enjoy wild grapes, too, and can be messy eaters! Another benefit of looking on the ground for grapes is spotting late summer mushrooms.
Wild grapes grow in small clusters of petite berries on long vines, often along the edge of woods. They use curled tendrils to climb the trees and it can take a bit of hunting to find enough within arm’s reach. Wild grapes ripen in early to mid fall and the best time for picking is a brief window when the clusters are mostly purple (vs having a lot of still-green fruits) but before the older grapes begin to shrivel and decay.
You need a couple gallons (e.g. ice cream buckets) of clusters to make a reasonable quantity of juice—which is easy if you find a big clump, but challenging if you need to traipse along a lot of country roads. A scissors or pruning shears will make harvesting easier.
As with any wild foraging, you need to make sure you are getting the correct plant.
What to Do with Wild Grapes
As I’ve mentioned, wild grapes are not likely to find fame as a fresh eating fruit. The problems range from size (teeny) to tartness (pucker up) to a high tartaric acid content that may actually cause stomach and skin irritation.
I have always used my wild grapes for juice. I make and can a concentrate, then mix it with plain or fizzy water for a beverage that is healthier and tastier than a commercial soft drink. Other people use wild grapes for a homemade sweet wine.
How to make wild grape wine
Make Wine at Home: Easy and Cheap Home Made wild grape wine
Traditional recipes use equal quantities of fruit and sugar. The concoction age for less than a month. This makes a sweet drink with minute traces of alcohol. The process of making grape wine is pretty easy. The most important part is to keep everything clean and dry.
– 500 g Grapes 1 lb
– 250 – 500 g Sugar 1 to 2 C
– Remove the grapes from the stem, wash and dry well.
– Clean and dry a large non reactive jar.
– Measure the sugar and set aside. Adjust sugar per taste, use equal amount in weight of the grapes for the sweet wine.
– Divide the sugar and grapes into equal number of portions. Take one portion of the grapes and place in the jar. Crush it lightly with the back of a wooden spoon so the juices begin to ooze out. Layer a portion of the sugar.
– Repeat this process until all the fruit is used up. Crush the last layer of fruit and add the add the cinnamon stick and cloves. End with layer of sugar.
– Close the lid and store in a dark place, away from light and heat.
– 24 hours later shake the jar lightly to distribute the sugar and spices evenly. Repeat this process for 5 days. If the mix froths to the top open the lid a little to vent. Close and return to the storage area.
– Keep the jar undisturbed for at least 21 days. For more complex flavors keep it for 3 months. Open the jar and strain the juices into a clean dry bottle.
– Serve chilled.
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