Old timers speak of the years the mountains take and then give.
The summer drought that crushed nearly every garden in the mountains, to a brown powder,
gave something back, a bumper crop of wild grapes.
Fox Grapes as those old timers called them, and if you ever walked along a game trail in
the Alleghenies in late fall then you would know why. In the frosted nights of fall, foxes move
quietly beneath the high climbing vines, vacuuming up any tasty fruit knocked down by
squirrels, bird or wind. Purple scat dots the ground. If you watch the ground for these signs
you will soon know which trees hide the fruited vines.
They are almost hard, deep purple and no bigger than the tiniest blueberry. More seed then
fruit, but as you roll them inside your mouth like tiny pebbles and squeeze out their small
treasure of juice, you will know without doubt, the taste they will yield for jelly, juice and wine
is unfound in private vineyards.
We are very lucky! The wild grape loves our sunny mountain top. In the back yard near the
forest edge there is an old Dogwood tree that is a special tree to us. Beneath it is the final
resting place for the dogs that shared our lives and guarded us here on the mountain. In the
spring it blooms white, four petal flowers and in the fall it supports in the crown a tangled wild
vine of grapes.
We pull down the vines thin ends to reach the clusters. Then the wisest of our old timers, my
mother takes over to harvest the grape bunches, teaching her granddaughters as she works.
Speaking to them of the things that they will need to know till they are old timers.
“…don’t harvest the grapes till after the last frost.”
“..the best ones are at the top of the tree, the hardest to get.”
“..Don’t eat the green ones or you’ll spit powder for a week.”
“…you must harvest what the mountain offers, it is a gift."
From this gathering we will make 2 batches of grape jelly for morning toast. A batch of juice for
eager young grand children and five gallons of wild grape wine. This wine we have always
called “Our Lost Pup Wine’ and it will help to make the chilly, long nights of winter a little warmer.