The spirit of the grapevines is moving from generation to generation. Last weekend, Jim Covey shared his love and knowledge of our grapevines in the memory garden with Alex. Alex showed an interest in the grapes when he realized that the jelly that he loved was actually coming from these vines. He even learned how to make the jelly from Jim and Mary during Craft Night last fall. This sparked the need to know what it took to get from the vine to the grape to the jar.
If you are like me, you walk by the vines and never really think much about them. I decided it was time to get a little history and wanted to share it with you. Here is what Jim had to say.
The grapevines were planted when the Memory Garden was established in the mid-1990s, as best I can remember. The garden’s founders wanted an entry feature and decided that an arbor with grapevines would be interesting. The arbor was built and a Concord grapevine (red grapes) was planted on the west side and Niagara grapevine (white grapes) on the east.
The founders were aware that I had grapevines at home and approached me to determine what kind of maintenance would be required. When I explained the process, they asked me if I would accept the job of maintaining the vines. With that job came the responsibility to decide what to do with the grapes when they ripened.
The first few years the young vines produced a small harvest of grapes from which we could make enough jelly to give a jar to each staff member with a few left over. As the vines matured they produced as much as 40 pounds of grapes from which we could make up to nine batches of jelly (four and a half gallons). We continued to provide a jar to each member of our expanding staff and decided to sell the additional jelly with the proceeds going to the Food Pantry. For the last few years we have been able to send the Food Pantry $100 to $120 annually.
I have been asked if we could make wine from the grapes. Yes, we could, but the wine would of very poor quality and would take a lot of extra work. It would be a very sweet wine with a taste similar to grape wine from the Amana Colonies (except theirs is better). The taste of Concord grape wine is described as “foxy”, whatever that is.
The annual cycle of maintenance is:
- In late winter prune the dormant vines to remove most of the previous year’s growth.
- In early June, tie new growth to the arbor for better appearance.
- In mid-July, again tie new growth to the arbor.
- In early August spray the vines to protect against damage by Japanese beetles.
- In late August the vines are wrapped with bird-netting to protect the ripening grapes.
- Grapes are harvested in early September.
Jim’s labor of love is a true gift to Faith. It is a blessing to watch the interest of this vine grow in my son. Stop and take notice of the beauty that is living outside our doors.