Monday, October 6, 2008

Putting By the Grape Harvest

No freeze yet - it only went down to 35. The harvest continues, just not quite so frantically. I have a red seedless Reliance grapevine, about 18 years old now. It's the one fruit I can almost always count on, blooming late enough to miss most Spring frosts. It's planted on the east side of the dog run/chicken brood pen (I also have a green Himrod, that never produces much at all but shades the west side of the dog run, and a very young Golden Muscat just getting started on the east side of the deck). The Reliance is shaped into a four-arm Kniffen, with two branches running south and two north. By pruning it back each year to just those four arms, the new growth gets plenty of sunlight each year, and it's easy to net the whole thing from the birds. I've got one long piece of netting that will stretch all the way up and over, clothes-pinned underneath to the chain link fence, and more than long enough to go around the corners. I use an old broom to lift the netting on and off, and wind it around an old Christmas wrapping paper cardboard tube for storage year-to-year.

I now get probably 40-50 pounds of grapes each year. Some I freeze to use like blueberries in muffins, smoothies, and cereal (I love frozen grapes, with their little casing of ice milk, in my cereal bowl). Some we eat fresh out-of-hand. Fresh grapes will keep into December, laid out in unwashed bunches one layer deep on newspaper-lined trays in the cellar. Some I give to the neighbor kids. And the rest I dehydrate into raisins.

I used to dry my raisins out in the sun on the deck, moving the laden screens inside every night. But when an elderly neighbor across the street decided to get rid of everything and move to India, she gave me her old dehydrator (it's harvest-gold color - at least 30 years old), plus the paperback book that went with it; Food Drying at Home by Bee Beyer. It's a really nice dehydrator, the size of a big microwave, with eight rectangular screens, a fan (a bit noisy), and an adjustable temperature control. I still use the sun for dehydrating summer produce, but it's so much easier to do the grapes in October inside. So today, I watched a couple of movies on TV and de-stemmed enough grapes for a full load.


Nancy M. said...

That's the way I like it watching TV while doing work!

Susan said...

Beautiful grapes! I have hoped one day we would plan grapevines (husband's family were winery owners). Those are just lovely.

I hope you received my email apology. It was sincere.

Always a pleasure to drop in here.