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California Wild grapes grow in small bunches spread out along leafy vines. The grapes are very small and globe-shaped, measuring an average of 8 millimeters in diameter. They ripen from pale green to reddish-purple and then to a deep purple as the seasons change and the green leaves turn shades of orange, gold and red. California Wild grapes have thin skins and are juicy when fully ripe. They offer a sweet-tart flavor that will get sweeter following the first frost of the season.
California Wild grapes are available in the late summer and fall months.
California Wild grapes are one of the many different varieties of wild grapes in the United States. They are botanically classified as Vitis californica and have been used by the native peoples of Central and Northern California for centuries. They are mostly found in the wild where birds and other small animals use the vining plant for food and shelter. Rootstock from the California Wild grape is credited with saving the wine industry after pests killed nearly all the grape vines in Europe in the late 1800s.
California Wild grapes are a good source of vitamins B1, B6, and C, as well as manganese and potassium. They are an excellent source of antioxidants from phytonutrients and the polyphenol reservatrol, which is present in the skins. The distinctive tart flavor of California Wild grapes comes from the high amount of tartaric acid in the flesh.
California Wild grapes can be enjoyed fresh, directly from the plant, or can be used in cooked applications. Enjoy them along with other fruits in salads or halved in chicken or Waldorf salads. Juice them for making wine or mead, jams and jellies, or for frozen desserts. Refrigerating the juice overnight will allow the tartaric acid to separate from the juice, resulting in a sweeter flavor. The fruits can be used in chutneys, fruit salsas, or dried for raisins. They can be baked into muffins, breads, scones or pies. Store California Wild grapes in the refrigerator in a perforated container for up to a week.
California Wild grapes were gathered by the native peoples of California’s Cascadian foothills, Sacramento Valley and North Coastal areas. Both fresh and dried fruits served as an important food source for many tribes, including the Nisenan and Wappo, who cooked meat and fish wrapped in grape leaves and used the vines for baskets.
California Wild grapes are native to the northern and central areas of the state and may be found growing in parts of Oregon, Nevada and Southern California. They were first catalogued and named by English botanist George Bentham in 1844. The vines are found growing in sunny spots along riverbanks and hillsides, near springs and streams, and in wooded areas where moisture is present year-round. The plants are very hardy and both drought and disease resistant, and in some areas are considered invasive. Rootstock for this variety is sold for use by wine makers and home growers. There are two known cultivated varieties, ‘Roger’s Red’ and ‘Walker Ridge’.
Recipes that include Wild Grapes. One is easiest, three is harder.
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