Grapes for the Home Vineyard

    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.
    • Roses should be pruned if you haven’t done so already. Remove all old leaves on and around the bushes and spray with a combination of lime-sulfur and dormant oil to prevent early pest and disease problems.
    • Last chance to spray peach and nectarine trees for peach leaf curl before the buds break open. Use copper sulfate wettable powder for the best results.
    • Blueberries make delicious fruit on attractive plants that you can use in the orchard or the landscape. Choose varieties now.

Grapes for the Home Vineyard

An age-old fruit, grapes have been cultivated for over 6000 years and continue to grow in popularity today. Grown for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine, grapes are widely recognized for their health benefits as well as for the production of fine wines.

Wine grape varieties represent only a small portion of the more than 600 kinds of grapes, and only about 60 varieties are suited to produce fine quality wine. The rest are considered table grapes, which are seeing a surge in popularity with today’s home gardeners.

Seedless table grapes are the most popular and Thompson Seedless and Flame Seedless make up the majority of table grapes sold in California. But both of these varieties require a considerable amount of heat to reach their finest quality. The Willits area just doesn’t get the amount of heat that the Central Valley does where these varieties grow to perfection. But there are many delicious grapes that are well suited to our climate.

There are two basic types of grapes, American and European. Our familiar table grapes and most wine grapes are derived from a single European species, Vitis vinifera. They have relatively thin skins that adhere closely to their flesh, and seeds that can be slipped out of the pulp quite easily.

American varieties, Vitis labrusca, are sometimes called slip-skin grapes, as their skins separate readily from the flesh; their seeds are tightly embedded in the pulp. The most familiar American variety is the Concord grape. Our area is suited to American grapes and to selected European varieties with lower heat requirements.

For delicious green grapes, try Interlaken Seedless, one of the finest American grapes. Its pale green berries are sweet and crisp and it is one of the first to ripen here. The clusters are medium sized and compact. The berries are good for eating fresh and excellent for raisins.

Himrod Seedless has golden yellow fruit that is sweet, juicy and delicious. It makes excellent raisins. Of the European grapes, Perlette is the first to ripen. Its pale green berries are very tender and juicy with a sweet to slightly tart flavor. Golden Muscat grapes produce huge clusters of golden delicious fruit. The oval berries are a beautiful golden color and are sweet, juicy, and flavorful. They ripen in the fall.

Suffolk Red is a seedless grape with round, firm, pink to red berries and a pleasing, spicy-sweet flavor. It makes a really delicious table grape.

The best known blue grapes are Concord and Concord Seedless, with blue-black grapes of a distinctive “foxy” flavor. They are used widely for grape juice and jelly. Black Monukka grapes have a deep, purplish-black skin and are very sweet with a rich flavor. They are crisp and delicious for fresh use and raisins, and do not need the high heat that Thompson does to get sweet.

Autumn Royal is crisp and sweet and makes a delicious snack for fall. With a purple-black skin and translucent yellow-green flesh, it has a pleasant, distinctive flavor. Give it a very hot location and the fruit will ripen toward the end of the season.

Grapes are so abundant and easy to grow, that no family orchard should be without them. Plant several varieties to enjoy their distinct flavors and a long harvest.

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