Monday, September 12, 2005

Wild Austin: Occasional notes

On my walk yesterday, whose basic purpose was to cleanse my mind of all thoughts of George Bush, and which only partially accomplished that purpose, I took a couple of photos in Seawright Park by Slaughter Creek. The first is of some wild grapes. These are called fox grapes by some people, but are more properly called fall grapes, because the fruits get ripe in late September and October. They are also called uvas cimarronas (which basically means wild grapes) by immigrants from northern Mexico, where the species is also common.

The fruits are very sweet and tasty when ripe (they are almost ripe now), but small with big seeds. Supposedly they make good wine, but the plants are not abundant. You would have to find a way to cultivate them to get enough juice to make as much as a single bottle of wine. I have read that they are difficult to propagate. The vine I took a picture of may be the only one of its kind in a 300 acre park along Slaughter creek.
Another native, the mustang grape, which ripens earlier in the summer, has much larger fruit, and is much more common. Sadly, its grapes are more or less inedible, and its juice undrinkable, no matter how prepared, and god knows I have tried everything myself. The juice is acidic enough to strip paint off furniture, and has essentially no sugar content. If you add enough sugar to make wine, chances are you will either get very powerful vinegar you can use to unclog drains, or wine you will regret, with something beyond what winesnobs call skunky overtones--you get the skunk itself.

You can make jelly out of mustang grapes, but I guess you would have to go further out of your way than I am willing to go to develop a taste for it.

I am probably missing a bet by not capitalizing on healthful properties of grapeseed anti-oxidants and marketing mustang grapeseeds, because mustang grape antioxidants have gotta be industrial strength, high-powered chemicals.

But below is the much better tasting fall grape. I found a few ripe enough to eat. I wish there had been more.

Vitis berlandieri

But here we have a deer, not too far from the grapevine, possibly also waiting for a chance at these grapes.

No comments: