Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grape Harvest

Back in January when we moved in, the grapevines were bare and a wee bit wily.
I had read once that a grapevine will grow the height of a mature evergreen in one season.
That's almost as much as a 9 year old girl grows over the summer. :)  Thank goodness grapevines don't require a wardrobe like the kids do.
Having a 100 foot row of grapes to prune was a daunting task at first.  Especially because we never had to care for grapevines before.
We read that the ideal time to trim was in the winter, while sap production in the plant is low.  
Unfortunately, we read that in March. 
We steamrolled ahead, however, and trimmed back the recommended 90% of the cane growth.  They bled sap for days, but all turned out well.  I think we were at the end of the peak time to prune, though.  This year will aim for December or January pruning.
When trimming grapevines, we found out that the buds on the previous year's cane will sprout a new cane that produces the current year's crop.  From what we read, it is ideal to cut back all but 3 buds on a old cane, aiming for 8 inches of spacing between pruned canes, and removing the canes that will grow under the canopy.  We found a great example of this on Gurney's Seeds You Tube page.
Come late summer, this is how our vines developed. 
No irrigation required!!
"Hey, didn't i just cut all that off?"

Now we are reaping the benefits.

It is the end of September, and the black grapes have an amazing flavour!
Cookie loves them--noting that they have "a certain sweetness at first, then you get a little tang at the end!"  I believe she also has been heard saying "Mmmm, these are The. Best. Grapes. Ever!"  They seem to be getting a bit bigger as the days go by, so i have slowed our harvest of them to two or three clusters per day that average about 7oz per harvest.  The green grapes are still sour, however some of the bigger berries within the clusters have been sugary sweet.
I noticed the spiders have taken to making their webs between the canes.  So enchanting to see so many intricate marvels of nature!
One care note that i've learned this fall regards summer pruning.
When i was a kid, i remember going with my grandparent's to pick grapes in the desert farms in Florence, AZ.  I remember being under the grapevines, but i didn't remember them being shrouded in them, as one harvesting ours would be.  One reason could be our wet, rainy springs, but i also wondered if we should have pruned any leaves or canes, like you would for tomatoes.
Turns out, there are summer duties that if completed, will result in sweeter, larger berries, faster ripening, and prevention of diseases and mildews.
I found a decent video about this from Grow Organic.
What do you do with 100' of grapes, you ask?
For now, my plan is to freeze as many as humanly possible.  Cookie and i love noshing on frozen grapes in the winter.  Freezing seems to increase the sugary taste.  If you haven't frozen grapes before, it's best to clean them off well, strip them from their stalks, dry and pop them in a freezer bag , trying to expell as much air as you can while sealing the bag.  I figure after they are frozen, we can take our time figuring out if we want to make juice or jam.  :)  If we run out of freezer space, maybe we can set up a little roadside cooler and sell a few bundles. 

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Thanks for taking the time to read my silly lil musings. Hope you have a wonderful day!