It’s a great time of the year to be a forager. The weather is cooler and the bugs are not as prevalent. So I decided to go for a hike and started foraging for wild grapes. These grapes make for a refreshing drink, which I will show you how to make. In the Northeast, these grapes grow just about everywhere. I like to find mine at my local reservoir. The grapes grow on a vine and are easy to identify.
Foraging for Wild Grapes
When they are in season you can smell them from afar. They look like traditional grapes you would find in a grocery store, but they don’t taste like them. They are a bit sour. Concord grapes or sometimes called Riverside grapes, like to grow by streams and river banks, margins of woodlands or thickets. Make sure you bring along a pocket knife or a good pair of scissors. You want to bring some plastic shopping bags to hold your grapes. I always bring my backpack with all my gear.
I do not suggest you pick grapes on someone’s private property. Try exploring some hiking trails or your local rivers or streams. When picking the grapes make sure you pick ripe dark blue ones. Avoid the rotten and unripe ones. I picked about a small shopping bag worth of grapes to make some wild grape juice. These grapes also freeze very well, so you can pick more and freeze the rest for later.
Here are some pictures of how the grapes look growing upward on a vine.
Now, what do you do with all these wild grapes?
Well, you can make grape jelly. I like making grape juice since I am not much of a jam person. I do love fruit juice. Here is my simple recipe for wild grape juice.
This is what you will need:
1- Large pot
1- Large bowl
Sprig of mint
Honey or sugar
Cleaning and cooking your grapes.
Once you get your grapes home, make sure you wash them thoroughly and pick out any stems, unripe or rotten grapes in a strainer.
Now it is time to put them in a pot and cover them with water. You want about 1 inch of water covering the top of the grapes. Bring your grapes to a boil and gently mash them with your potato masher. Do not over mash them, the grapes contain seeds which will cause the juice to become bitter. Let the mash boil gently for about 15 minutes then turn off the heat and let it steep for another 15 minutes.
Straining and sweetening
Now its time to strain. I like to pass it through two strainers. First through a large strainer and then through a finer mesh strainer. This allows for a cleaner juice. You will have to work the juice and mash with a spatula. Once you double strained your juice you need to sweeten it. I like to use honey. You can use sugar. Add the honey and stir until the honey dissolves. Taste as you go, I added about 1/4 cup of honey. I like my juice a little on the sour side. If you like it sweeter then add more honey.
Jarring and refrigerating
It’s time to jar and refrigerate your juice. I like to put mine in Ball jars. You can use any type of pitcher to store your juice. Pour your strained and sweetened juice into jars. I like to add a bunch of mint from the garden to each jar. Then cap and put into the refrigerator. To serve, I recommend adding a little seltzer water or some vodka if you like. Enjoy your foraged wild grapes!
To properly identify the wild edibles I found in this post, I used this book:
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide has all the plants conveniently organized by season, enthusiasts will find it very simple to locate and identify their desired ingredients. Each entry includes images, plus facts on the plant’s habitat, physical properties, harvesting, preparation, and poisonous look-alikes. The introduction contains tempting recipes and there’s a quick-reference seasonal key for each plant.
The North American Field Guide is available from these retailers:
Have you ever been foraging for wild grapes? Do you have any juice making tips?