Grapes are best planted in early spring and do well in most soil as long as it is well-drained. They have deep roots and should be planted at least 2-3 feet deep in the soil. Grapes grow relatively easy but require pruning and training on a vine or trellis. Grapes are considered temperate zone plants since they require both a cool winter and warm growing season (150-180 frost free days) for ideal harvesting (1). The plant requires full sun (7-8 hours per day). Less light can lead to poor quality fruit and rotting as well as powdery mildew (2). Like all fruits, the vines must flower before fruits emerge. Grape flowers appear as small white buds that grow in dense clusters. These buds begin developing the year before the fruits grow and should not be mistaken for grapes. A healthy grape vine takes up at least 50 square feet of arbor space (2). The vigor of vine growth depends on the level of soil fertility. Vines should be spaced about 8 feet apart. Grapes grown for the home are often placed on an arbor or trellis since the plant needs to be kept off the ground. When growing grapes, it is necessary to choose the correct variety, as plant types differ for juice, wine, and eating. American varieties are typically grown for edible purposes, and they are the most cold-tolerant. Grapes grown for wine have thicker skins than edible varieties do. Pruning is required in order to prevent producing too much fruit (overbearing) (1). Pests include the aphid-like phylloxera, grape erineum mite, Japanese beetles, wasps, hornets, birds, deer, and rodents. Geraniums can be planted near grapes to deter Japanese beetles (11). Diseases include crown Gall (bacterial), botrytis fruit rot (gray mold), and powdery mildew.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Besides being eaten raw, grapes can be cooked and used to make jams, jellies, and juice. They can also be cooked into pies and used in dessert recipes. Grapes can be dried to make raisins. They contain powerful antioxidants, linking them to the prevention and treatment of heart disease, Alzheimer, and various cancers. Resveratrol is a substance found in grapes linked to a reduction in colon cancer (8). Grapes are high in vitamins A, C, B6, and Folate. They contain micronutrients that support bone health. The fruit can ease constipation and indigestion. Its iron content helps with fatigue. Grapes are also known to ease migraines (5). Beyond the fruit, grape seed oil can be made by pressing the seeds of grapes. Grape seed oil is packed with Vitamin E and omega-9 (linoleic oil), an essential fatty acid. It is popular for its clean, neutral flavor. Grapeseed oil is commonly used in French cuisine since it can flavor a dish without making it too greasy. It is a natural moisturizer and a common ingredient in beauty products often used for skin and hair care, massage and aromatherapy (3). Grape seed oil, unlike avocado or olive, has a high burning temperature, making it great for cooking. (Oils with low burning temperatures can be cancerous if heated.) Grape seed extract can increase antioxidant levels in the bloodstream. It has been shown to prevent and treat certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Grape seed oil and extract also heal wounds. Grapes leaves are almost always stuffed, and can be filled with limitless ingredients. These heart shaped leaves are picked when green and should be blanched to be flexible and edible. The leaf itself does not contain much flavor, but rather is used in various cultures as a ‘vessel’ for ingredients. Stuffed grape leaves are a staple in Greek, Turkey, and most of the Middle East. Leaves can be stuffed with meats, rice, bulgur, minced vegetables, cheeses, nuts dried fruits, spices and oil or sauces (4).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Stuffed grape leaves are most commonly eaten in Greece and the Middle East. In Greece, these dolmathes are stuffed with lamb, rice, mint, fennel, parsley, dill, garlic, pine nuts, a lemon-based sauce (avgolemono) and olive oil (4). Stuffed grape leaves are a favorite of Sephardic Jews, as they can be prepared and stored before sabbath (6). Europe sources 80% of the global grape supply (7), and Europe and North American consume the most fresh grapes (8). Greeks and Romans were ardent grape growers by the 3rd century B.C., and Greek Intellectuals drank fermented grapes (wine) as a spiritual practice. Today, Roman Catholics consume a small amount wine at communion as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s blood (10).
From the Community Voice
“The late afternoon of the feast of Santiago was still and hot, and there were no clouds in the sky. The river was low, and the grape leaves had begun to curl in the fire of the sun...It was a pale midsummer day, two or three hours before sundown...There were houses along the north side of the street patches of grapes and corn and melons on the south.”
- House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday
1. Strick, Bernadine C. "Growing Table Grapes." EC 1639 • May 2011 Growing Table Grapes (2011): Oregon State University - Department of Horticulture Extension Service, 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/growing_table_grapes_ec1639_may_2011.pdf>.
2. "Growing Grapes (table, Wine, Raisins) in Your Backyard." Growing Grapes in Your Backyard. University of California - Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Growing_Grapes_in_the_California_Garden/?uid=1&ds=436>.
3. "Grape Seed Oil Has Far More Culinary Uses ..." Wildtree Natural Meals. Wildtree Foods, Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://wildtreemeals.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/grape-seed-oil-has-far-more-culinary-uses/>.
4. "Grape Leaves." Specialty Produce. Specialty Produce, Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://www.specialtyproduce.com%2Fproduce%2FGrape_Leaves_627.php>.
5. "Health Benefits of Grapes." Organic Facts. Organic Information Services Pvd Ltd., Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-grapes.html>.
6. Goldstein, Joyce. "Stuffed Grape Leaves." My Jewish Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://mobile.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Food/Sephardic_Cuisine/The_Mediterranean/Stuffed_Grape_Leaves.shtml>.
7. Kurtural, S Kaan, Dr. "A Brief History of the Grape and Its Uses." University of Kentucky College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension Service, Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/history&uses.pdf>.
8. "Grape Vine." , Vitis Vinifera, Plant Facts. The Eden Project, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://www.edenproject.com/visit-us/whats-here/plant-a-z/grape-vine>.
9. "Grapes: A Brief History." MU. University of Missouri, Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2013/8/Grapes-A-Brief-History/>.
10. "The Earth of India: All About Grapes in India." The Earth of India: All About Grapes in India. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://theindianvegan.blogspot.com/2012/10/all-about-grapes-in-india.html>.
11. "VeggieHarvest." Grape Plant Growing and Harvest Information. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://veggieharvest.com/vegetables/grapes.html>.