Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grape Progress, or, not the Grapes of Wrath

We planted two Concord grape vines two years ago. I have been bumbling along not sure how to take care of them - when to prune, what to prune, how much to prune, when to let the bunches grow, how many to let grow. This spring I built an arbor for them to grow on but the top of the arbor was a little higher than the wire on which they had been growing, so none of the bunches of grapes are hanging down from the arbor. They are, instead, hanging from last year's vines that were attached to the wires. I pulled the wire up closer to the top of the arbor and the new growth is mostly up there.

The vines produced lots of little bunches of grapes and I was pretty sure that there were far more than the two plants could sustain. I had read that I should let a small number of bunches grow this third year. I removed those that looked particularly sparse but I let most of them keep growing. They did, although only about half of the grapes in many bunches actually filled out. They started turning purple a while ago and when I walked under the trellis several days ago, I could smell grapes.

Since I have been making jam this week - peach, pear (more about that in a later post) and blackberry - I decided to see if I could collect enough grapes to make grape jam. Th
e recipe calls for 5 pounds of grapes (including stems). I began picking those individual grapes that looked ripe (nice dark purple color - none in this photo have reached that color) instead of picking them by the bunch. That would have sacrificed a lot of unripe grapes. I had a little over two pounds when I weighed the first picking. So I picked some more and then some more, eventually picking all of those I saw that looked ripe and ended up with 4.91 pounds. This turned out to be a little more than I needed so I will amend the recipe to call for 4+ pounds of actual grapes instead of 5 pounds of grapes including stems.

When the jam was finished there was a small amount that didn't fit into the seven 12 ounce jars. When it cooled a taste test showed that it actually was grape jam. So, despite my misgivings and with a lot of room for improvement, we had a successful grape harvest. I think that next year's fruiting canes are mostly up on top of the arbor. I hope that by limiting the number of bunches they will fill out better and look like the Concord grape bunches at the Regional Market. That would also mean bigger grapes. But I am happy with the result this year. And there are still grapes to be picked.

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