Thursday, August 13, 2009

Native Grape Vines in The Woodlands, Texas

The Woodlands has an abundance of Muscadine (Mustang) grapes. If you are a Texan, you might call them the Texas Black Grape. I guess we have to name them different just because we like to call things by their color. It’s easier that way; everyone knows what you are talking about. It is not Muscatine, a European grape. The Texas Black Mustang Grape is a species that goes way back in Southeast Texas history with Native Americans. It is native to our area, because it thrives in the sun and humidity. I think everyone here appreciates that any plant that thrives in this climate should certainly at least be considered native, but this one is indeed very native, as native as Native Americans! These are found not only in Southeast Texas, but in Central Texas as well, where it is very dry, where you will find it principally in places having a lot of humidity in the mornings, such as near a riverbank. Here it thrives everywhere you put it. It especially likes to grow under the protection of a tree. That fact turns out to be a problem for us.

So the Texas Black is well known to native Texans and appreciated for its jelly primarily. Some even like it converted into a wine. In the old days, folks definitely made wine with it. If you were going to have any wine, you had to use this grape! It is not very sweet as the grapes used to make wines, but with enough sugar, one can get it there. I looked around in the Internet and found a recipe for Muscadine Wine1.

Some personal experiences with this grape took me to places I tell children not to go. Don’t smoke it! Yes, in Boy Scouts, we smoked Muscadine Grape vine, because the stems are very porous. Smoking will burn your lungs! So don’t do it! Not a good experiment for a child or for an adult. In Boy Scout Camp one year, I climbed up in a vine. Then I picked some stems just the right size and cut them for the whole gang. We were emulating cigarettes with them. When a vine reaches maturity, it will grow 3-4 feet in one year and the vine structure thickens over the years, where a child can climb into its branches.

Texas Black makes good jelly. It is best not to use the thick skin. It is bitter and just too chewy. A fine grape jelly requires that you cook, mash and filter them. I have found a jelly recipe2, but do not recall how I made my Black Jelly in the past, but I do know that it tasted very good. This recipe looks like it should do the job.

Texas Black makes a good raisin. Dried by the sun, it is chewy and full of healthy nutrients. Native Americans used raisins in the winter and as a light food in other times to carry on hunting trips.

Today, we know about the effects of certain chemicals on our digestive system and on health. This grape has antioxidants and resveratrol, purported to lower one’s risk to cancer. It also has high fiber content.

Here are some hints to identify the vine. It is very easy, especially in July and August when the berries ripen. The ground will always have the black grapes scattered and rotting and often squashed by human feet. This is not something you want to step in with your shoes and enter your home, especially if you have carpet! I am not going to suggest ways to get it out of carpet except to replace it.

Unfortunately for The Woodlands, this plant does so well, it threatens some of our trees. It gets plenty of sunshine along our pathways but has the shade of the trees while propagating. It can use the trees as a trellis. Therefore, it eventually overcomes a tree and deprives it of light.

Resources
1Winemaking
2Jellymaking

1 comment:

Hot Penny Stocks said...

Not much on the texas black grape with wine, but it is good as a jelly.