We grow all sorts of cold hardy grapes at Duffy Meadows, and are currently working with 8 different breeding stocks to create a table quality grape that can survive in zone 4 without winter protection.
One of most hardy and productive grapes happens to be the wild riverbank grape. It’s a fast grower that is drought and cold tolerant. In this article, we are going to show you how to best use this wild grape. It’s a bit sour off the vine, so take a look at how we process it.
Like many wild foods, not all the grapes on the vine ripen at the same time. So you’ll need to pick off the unripe and any moldy or bug ravaged grapes.The pyrex bowl was less than half full once all the stems and rejects were removed. Ignore the tomatoes in the background. They’re always hanging around near the end of summer and can’t help but get in every picture.
We had washed the grapes before separating, so the next step was to mash them up.
You can use a flat potato masher or a foley mill. Just be careful not to squash the seeds or you will release a lot of bitterness.In the end, we wound up with a ton of waste (that we composted into the forest where the seeds are welcome to sprout) and a bit of juice.
The mashing creates a lot of foam.
Leave the juice in the refrigerator for 2 days so the tartaric acid (cream of tartar!) can come out. About 1/4 of the juice is tartaric acid. It tastes dry and unpleasant, so it’s best to let it settle out.
Then pour the juice off and either drink it, save it, or make jelly.
I would not make jam with riverbank grapes because the skins and seeds contain even more tartaric acid. It’s best to take them all out. You can eat the grapes raw and they taste fine – a bit tart. The seeds are crunchy and bland – kind of annoying but totally edible (and loaded with reservatol and fatty acids – grapeseed oil.)
We drink the juice and also make it into jelly and a syrup for pancakes. It tastes a million times better without all the tartaric acid, but it’s still quite sour. The syrup did not require any pectin and neither should the jelly. They are quite naturally high in pectin.
Riverbank grapes are also known as “frost grapes” because their sugar content increases once the frost hits. But waiting that long can mean a total loss to the birds and/or skin breaking and fermentation.
Like any grape, you can also dehydrate these into raisins. There will be seeds, but it’s kind of a fun treat.
Stay tuned as we work to create a grape you can grow in your own “northern” backyard.