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What are Wild Grapes and Can You Eat Them?

Did you know that there are over 60 grape species worldwide? That's new information to me! I am so used to seeing common types at the store like red and green grapes and concord grapes, but it turns out there are many more types. Ever heard of cotton candy grapes?

Grapes have so many uses in the culinary world. Grape juice, raisins, wine, grape jelly, etc. Even the leaves are used as the main ingredient in stuffed grape leaves. On top of being a healthy fruit and food source, they also have many health benefits. Grapes are high in fiber, rich in antioxidants, great for digestion, and help promote a healthy heart.

What are Wild Grapes? 

Well, have you ever spotted wild grapes? Part of the grape family and found in North America as well as other countries, wild grapes grow in small bunches on long, leafy grape vines. Also known as the riverbank grape, there are dozens of species of wild grapes found in the United States and around the world.

A woody vine that can easily grow in plenty of locations like riverbanks and fencerows, wild grape vines climb so well because of their forking tendrils. The grape vines produce lobed leaves similar to the cultivated grapes and in the early Spring, the leaves can be eaten. Try tossing them into a salad or stuff the grape leaves like they do in Mediterranean cuisine.

This species of wild grape grows in small, hanging bunches shaped like a pyramid. The fruit is small and tastes best after the first frost, usually around late summer or early fall, and appears dark purple or black in color.

They have thick skin and are juicy when ripe. There are also pits/seeds inside (at least two), but can easily be picked out when eating. The fruit makes a tasty snack on the go and also freezes well so you can make grape juice to have throughout the winter. Unripe, green grapes contain a high amount of pectin, which is great to use in cooking and canning.

However, foragers, keep in mind when searching for wild grapes it's important to know the difference between wild grapes and the poisonous species known as 'Moonseed'.

The grape leaf has a different shape and to help you identify if the fruit is edible when you break open the fruit, the Moonseed has one, crescent or D shaped seed inside. Also, wild grapes have forked tendrils and Moonseeds do not.

Once you identify that the wild grapes you find on your journey are safe, get ready to use them in a variety of different ways.

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