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What is in Season Now?

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Well, let’s fast forward past all the plants that have come into season, been harvested, been converted to compost or have graced my table……….March 8th 2022 was about Celery growing time LOL. Today’s topic class, will be about Muscadine grapes and the missed opportunity with the local close cousin, Mustang Grapes, that grow wild along waterways here in the Houston, area.

Vitis mustangensisn – A common and easily recognized grape with a white, velvety surface on the lower side of the leaves. A vine climbing over shrubs and into trees and often shading their leaves. Leaves in two forms: one form unlobed or shallowly lobed, and the other form deeply lobed, with the latter less common and on rapidly growing shoots. The lower surface of the unlobed leaves often concave. Grapes up to 3/4 inch in diameter, few to the bunch, ripening in August and September to dark purple, and usually bitter, even irritating, but popular with makers of homemade wine. Note; I will disagree a bit with ripening dates……here in Houston area it typically the last week of June and first week of July…….except, as always exceptions, this drought driven year, 2022, it was early June.

Distribution; – USA: AL , AR , LA , OK , TX
Native Habitat: Woodlands’ edge, Opening, Thickets, Stream, river bank, Fence rows. What is really crazy about the growth habitat it that the vines seem to grow wildly heaven bound……70, 80 and my guess is even 100 feet tall before making the turn and heading the other direction. It can be a challenge to harvest with out long reach pruning tools.

Today’s class though is for, Muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia), which are native to East Texas. They thrive in slightly acid soils and have good disease resistance which makes them particularly suited to the humid climates of East Texas. My harvest is a mix of the native Muscadine grapes and a commercial variety that I have trellised along my back fence and over the entry into my garden. They can be grown commercially here it Texas, actually East Texas, but it is difficult.

At the entrance to my garden

As you can see they don’t grow in bunches like most grapes we are all familiar with. 2022 looks to be a great year for this variety that I planted 3+ years ago. That said, I am in direct competition with the local squirrels as they ripen…..a real challenge. Every day I make a pass along the vine looking for the hidden ripe ones before the squirrels indiscriminate approach…….Yes they knock an awful lot of green & unripened ones to the ground……unforfunately the green ones do not continue to ripen……dang squirrels – If my wife didn’t think they were so cute I would ……….. well, strongly encourage them to go elsewhere.

I do believe I will retrieve enough to make some outstanding jelly. I missed harvesting the Mustang grape which makes a to die for jelly…….there is always next year.

Cucumbers…..can’t ignore this year’s natures bounty…….It is nearly as bad as the gardening neighbor that looks to give away the their abundance of zucchinis! I always wondered why they planted so many….LOL…..Kinda like me and my cucumbers this year……neighbors lock their doors when the see me coming now……I guess I should make some cucumber Gazpacho…..hope it freezes well and I don’t run out of freezer space……

TTFN

Bishop

If I Am Lucky – Muscadine Jelly From My Garden

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My vines are 4 years old now and put out a few bunches of grapes in 2020. It wasn’t enough to get too excited about so I combined them with the local Wild Mustang Grapes. I may not have quite enough this year for a discrete batch solely from my garden/backyard but it may be close. Timing may be an issue. ……. They may ripen when I am in Denver seeing my newest grandson.

Winter of 2021 I decided to learn how to prune the vines….my prior attempts were really just butchery. it was real actively simple if you follow instructions, not my long suite as my Goo friend John will attest too. If interested look into the archives for Goo Friend….. a typo that became a standard reference for my buddy, assistant beekeeper, beer drinking buddy, a long time ago mountain biking buddy and the list goes on.

Today June 11 marble sized
A few weeks earlier
Covering the new arbor, thanks Ashleigh for the construction assistance, and being trained along the back fence.

An FYI, I must be doing something right because I have captured 4 swarms in my backyard this Spring/Summer. I am hanging in there at 16 colonies now but……the rains have had a negative impact. In some cases lots of nectar but they can’t get it dried out enough for honey to be capped. I shoot for 18% water content or lower. Other wise the wild yeasts may begin to ferment the honey before it is consumed.

Bee swarm consolidating itself into one of my swarm boxes.

TTFN

Bishop

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