Monday, September 13, 2010

Grapes—Not Just for Jams and Wines

Believe it or not, we can make wine—from grapes--here in Minnesota. Some of it is quite good, too! I had the opportunity to sample some Minnesota wines while I was at the Fair, where they defined “fruit” wines as those made from raspberries, blackberries, and rhubarb, rather than from grapes.

In my neighborhood, several people have grapevines. Most of them use it to cover old chain-link fences or to make a few pints of jelly or juice. Because of our short growing season and cold, dry winters, most years are not conducive to great grape harvests. This year, however, produced a bumper crop.

The octogenarian sisters who live a few doors down from me have a grape vine on an arbor in their backyard that has taken over their clothesline this year. And, their grapes are abundant. After a momentary vision of the Baldwin sisters from an ancient TV program called “The Waltons,” I wondered whether they were going to make jelly with all those grapes.

It turns out that the sisters don’t have the grapes for the fruit at all! Lillian explained, “We’re Greek, you know. Mother had the vine planted for the leaves.” Wow. I couldn’t have predicted that response in a million years. It never would have occurred to me that a crop many people value for the fruit would be equally as valued by others for the foliage. I love when my world gets bigger!

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