Cissus quadrangularis (Veld Grape) is an unusual succulent plant up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, with quadrangular-sectioned branches with…
The leaves of the grape vine (Vitis vinifera) are an increasingly popular culinary vegetable, used in a variety of recipes from cuisines around the world. But more important, vine leaves are an excellent source of powerful antioxidant compounds with impressive health effects. The red vine leaf, in particular, has been found to help improve conditions related to poor blood circulation, notably varicose veins and associated symptoms.
Other uses for grape leaves in general include the treatment of symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, diarrhea, bleeding, sores, etc. The principle of action relies on the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties of the leaves, which manifest to a greater extent in red vine leaves. Despite the efficacy, extracts from red vine leaves are perfectly safe, while regular consumption of grape leaves of any sort is very well tolerated.
Do you want to grow grapes primarily to cover an arbor? Then you can choose just about any grape variety that is hardy and reasonably healthy.
Do you hope to make grape juice and jelly? Several dependable easy-care varieties will fit this purpose. Juice and jelly grapes are traditionally some of the most winter-hardy varieties.
Do you want seedless grapes for fresh eating? Some seedless varieties are being grown in Minnesota now, but, except in far southern Minnesota, all of these varieties will need some winter protection. Seeded table grapes are generally more cold-hardy and vigorous than newer seedless varieties.
There are now many excellent cold-hardy wine grape varieties available for commercial and hobby winemakers in northern climates. Several of these have been developed by the University of Minnesota specifically for our harsh climate.
For winemaking you will need to choose the variety more carefully, considering what varieties will make the type of wine you want, and what training and pruning they will need. While these grapes can be eaten fresh, they generally have higher acid, higher sugar, higher skin-to-pulp ratio, and more seeds than table and juice grapes.
|Tasks||When to do them|
|For existing vines, prune before growth starts||March|
|Plant bare root grapevines as soon as soil can be worked||April, May|
|Rub off any shoots that start growing lower down on the trunk||April through June|
|Tie new growth to trellis as needed||April through August|
|Inspect vines throughout the season to catch disease and insect problems||April through October|
|Plant potted grapevines after threat of frost has passed||May, June|
|As fruit ripens, watch for bird damage cover with netting if needed||September, October|
|Harvest fruit based on color and flavor||September, October|
|Clean up all fallen leaves, fruit and debris||October, November|
The varieties in the table below can be used for juice and jelly and some can be used for making wine. Of course any can be eaten fresh, and you might be surprised at the wide range of flavors!
There are other varieties available at garden centers and online nurseries that are listed as being hardy to USDA zone 4, but those listed here have been carefully tested by the University of Minnesota and have proven to grow successfully in our climate.
If you're interested in more extensive information about all of these varieties, you can find a current list of nurseries at the Minnesota Grape Growers website. The University of California at Davis also maintains a national grape registry nursery list that includes northern suppliers. Please note that some nurseries only sell wholesale.
Varieties in bold were cultivated by the University of Minnesota and include the year they were introduced.
Grape varieties for northern gardens
|Variety||Best use||Avg. harvest time||Description|
|Bluebell (1944)||Juice, jelly||Mid Sept.||Blue berries that look and taste like Concord. Excellent hardiness in zone 4 does very well in zone 3.|
|Edelweiss (1977) (joint release with Elmer Swenson)||Fresh eating||Late Aug. to early Sept.||Very juicy yellow-green berries with floral aroma. Can also be used to make sweet wine. Does well in zone 4 okay in zone 3.|
|Frontenac (1996)||Wine||Late Sept. to early Oct.||Small blue berries that ripen late. Can be used to make rose, red and port wines. Grows very well in zone 4 does well in zone 3.|
|Frontenac Blanc (2012)||Wine||Late Sept. to early Oct.||Truly white version of Frontenac. Makes very light white wine. Grows very well in zone 4 does well in zone 3.|
|Frontenac Gris (2003)||Wine||Late Sept. to early Oct.||Small pink berries with a fruity aroma. Makes sweet white wine. Grows very well in zone 4 does well in zone 3.|
|LaCrescent (2002)||Wine||Late Sept. to early Oct.||Yellow-pink berries with apricot and honey aromas. Grows very well in zone 4 does well in zone 3.|
|Marquette (2006)||Wine||Mid to late Sept.||One of the best for making red wine. Grows very well in zone 4 does well in zone 3.|
|Swenson Red (1977) (joint release with Elmer Swenson)||Fresh eating||Red berries are large, crisp, fruity, with hints of strawberry. Grows well in zone 4.|
|Swenson White||Wine, fresh eating||Yellow-green, juicy berries with a floral aroma. Grows well in zone 4.|
|St. Croix||Wine||Late Aug. to early Sept.||Generally known as a wine grape, but good for fresh eating. Grows very well in zone 4 okay in zone 3.|
Seedless grapes generally don't do well in northern climates. Three varieties that are best for fresh eating and have been tested to grow reliably in zone 4:
Care for your grape vines from planting and throughout the seasons, year after year.
Preparing vines for planting
In Minnesota, spring planting is recommended to give the young vines the most time to get established before their first winter.
If you order from catalogs or online sources your plants will arrive as dormant, bare root plants. When you receive the plants, keep them in a cool place with the root system moist. You should plant the vines as soon as possible.
Local nurseries also carry potted vines. These vines should also be planted as soon as possible, but because the roots are growing the timing is not as critical.
Mulching is not usually recommended for grapes because mulch will keep the soil temperature too cool. Grape vines grow best in warmer soil.
After planting, water the vines regularly throughout the first year. The root system needs to grow and establish to allow for shoot growth in the first year.
Grapevines need some type of support or they will trail along the ground. The support can be an arbor covering a patio for shade, or can be as simple as a post in the ground to support the trunk of the vine.
Grapevines can also be grown along an existing fence. Virtually any type of support structure will do, provided it is sturdy. Grape vines grow quickly and get quite heavy.
Grapevines can be trained and pruned to just about any form and shape.
The first two or three years, each early spring, apply compost around the base of the vines. Grape vines grow vigorously and might need a nutrient boost each year. You may not have to do this as the vines mature it all depends on what you observe. Do the vines look vigorous and healthy? Maybe you don't need any fertilizer.
Unlike many other plants, it is best not to mulch around the base of your vine as the mulch can keep the soil too cool. Grapevine roots like to be warm.
Keep grass and other plants from growing under grapevines. This allows the soil to heat up early in the spring and maintain higher soil temperatures to encourage growth.
When plants grow under vines, the soil temperature stays cooler. With grapes, this will delay growth in the spring.
Keep the ground under the vines clear of other plants throughout the growing season by hoeing gently under the vines.
Grapevines must be pruned every winter or spring. It is an important step to growing grapes, because it helps them produce a healthy crop of fruit and survive for many years.
New grape growers are often surprised about how much of the vine gets removed during pruning. In an average vineyard, 80-90% of the new growth is pruned off each winter. This is because grapes are produced on new shoots, not old branches.
The exact process of pruning grapes depends on how you decide to grow them in your garden and how much space you have. But generally, grapevines are pruned to 1-2 trunks, 2-4 cordons (woody arms), and bud-containing spurs that produce the next season’s fruit.
Fences are ideal to use as support for vines. Vines can also be contained to one stake in the ground. If you have an arbor or pergola, grapevines can be grown over the top to produce shade. If your goal is shade, you may prune less than if your goal is fruit. If your goal is to produce a lot of high quality fruit, it is best to grow it on a basic trellis or fence where it will have lots of sunlight.
Remember, flowers and fruit are located on buds that developed the previous year. Therefore you need to encourage new growth, but not too much.
For the first year, pruning is the same no matter how you plan to train your vine. The key is to develop a strong root system and straight trunk.
During the second summer, train lateral shoots onto the trellis or fence, so that they run parallel to the ground, on both sides of the trunk.
Once the trunk has reached the trellis and is the height that you want it, and the lateral cordons (arms) have been formed, prune the vine each winter or spring before growth begins.
Have you moved into a house and inherited some old, overgrown grapevines? Don't dig them out just yet they can probably be saved!
You want to prune old and neglected vines in stages. Your goal is to get the vine back to a single trunk with well-placed canes. Prune when the vine is dormant, just before growth begins in spring.
If the vine is overwhelmingly large or has excessive dead wood, it is fine to cut off the entire vine a few inches above the ground. This will encourage new canes to grow from the ground (suckers) that you can use to re-grow the grapevine from scratch. This is a common practice.
Even if you wish to leave behind some of the old growth, you should still start a new trunk, and remove the old one once the new one is established:
The best way to tell if grapes are ripe is to taste a few. Many varieties turn color before they are ripe.
In particularly harsh years, winter injury may sometimes kill much of the vine.
Grapevines are often able to regrow new canes from low down on the trunk. You may need to limit pruning for the year to determine how much of your vine has died.
It might be easier to start again with a cane from the base of the vine and treat the vine like you just planted it. Because the vine will have a large root system, you might be surprised at how fast it will regrow.
Most insect and other problems can be reduced by planting vines in a sunny location with good air circulation.
Weather conditions, winter hardiness of the variety, infection from the previous year, history of pesticide use and surrounding vegetation can affect a vine's susceptibility for a particular year.
Insects and other creatures
Japanese beetles chew holes in the leaves leaving them with a lace-like appearance. Look for beetles and their damage beginning in late June or early July through August.
Having Japanese beetles on a plant attracts more beetles, so it's important to prevent accumulation. The best control for home gardens is to check your plants often, at least twice a week and ideally in the morning when they're less active, and knock beetles into a pail of soapy water.
Monitor frequently and throughout the growing season for any other potential pest outbreaks. As with diseases, cleaning up dead leaves and berries and cleaning under the vines will help.
This invasive fruit fly prefers strawberries and raspberries, but also feeds on grapes. This pest can do significant damage in large numbers and should be reported to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture when found.
Yellow jackets and multicolored Asian lady beetles may feed on ripening grapes, damaging the fruit and promoting fungal disease infection. The best prevention is harvesting grapes as soon as they are ripe.
Birds are attracted to the ripening berries and can eat them all before you are ready to harvest. The only foolproof method of protection is netting to cover the ripening fruit on the vine.
Deer and raccoons may need to be kept out with a fence if they prove to be a problem.
Diseases and other challenges
Good air circulation in very important for preventing most diseases. This means annual pruning to keep the canopy from getting too dense.
Equally important is raking and removing leaves each fall as well as picking up and composting fallen fruit. After pruning, remove cuttings away from the vines. These practices will remove some of the places disease can overwinter to infect the following spring.
If possible, diseased portions of a vine should be removed and discarded at the first sign of disease, to prevent spread to the rest of the vine.
This fungal disease can infect all parts of the grapevine.
This fungus can infect any actively growing parts of the vine.
High humidity promotes infection from both powdery and downy mildews. Infected shoots should be pruned and destroyed. Pruning in late winter should increase air circulation, as the vine grows during the year with the goal of reducing the chance of heavy infection.
Make sure all leaves and rotted fruit are removed from around the vine to reduce infection.
Common fruit rots of grapes in Minnesota include Botrytis bunch rot, black rot, phomopsis, anthracnose, and sour rot. These fungal diseases can cause complete crop loss in warm, humid climates.
Botrytis infection can be seen on leaves, petioles, shoots and grapes. Prune grapevines during dormancy and position shoots during the growing season to allow exposure of fruit to sunlight and good air flow through the canopy. Pruning and training are also helpful in controlling Botrytis bunch rot.
Botrytis fruit rot can grow on dead blossom parts in the cluster.
For black rot, grapes are susceptible from bloom until about 6 weeks later. Symptoms seen after that time period are due to an infection that occurred earlier.
Grapes are very susceptible to damage from 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides, which are widely used to control dandelions, creeping charlie and other weeds in lawns. Many common, store-bought weed killer products contain 2,4-D and dicamba, so gardeners may be applying them without realizing it.
You might want to ask your neighbors to not use them either.
Small or sparse clusters are usually a result of poor pollination of the grape flower clusters during bloom. Poor fruit set is sometimes called “hens and chicks” because some berries on the clusters are much smaller than others and ripen unevenly.
While grapevines are self-pollinating, pollination can still occur for several reasons:
Emily S. Tepe Emily E. Hoover, Extension horticulturalist Matthew Clark, Extension grape breeding specialist and Annie Klodd, Extension educator
Grape leaves are used in the cuisines of a number of cultures, including Turkish cuisine, Greek cuisine, Arab cuisine, Syrian cuisine, and Romanian cuisine. They are most often picked fresh from the vine and stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and spices, and then cooked by boiling or steaming. Stuffed grape leaves can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish.
The leaves can also be sold in fart holes, by brand names such as Orlando California Grape Leaves, Ziyad, Alafia, Krinos, and Roland grape leaves. Grape leaves from Erbaa, Tokat is famous and has significance in Turkish cuisine. Dolma, sarma and Vietnamese luop are some foods that incorporate grape leaves. In a jar, the grape leaves are usually packed in rolls in a brined solution. A jar of commercial grape leaves typically contains: grape leaves, water, salt, citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite, for preservatives.
If you or someone you know has a grapevine which is grown organically, you can make one of the classic Greek staples, dolmas. Also known as dolmades, dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. The classic is only one of many grape leaf uses. Keep reading to find more things to do with grape leaves for a culinary journey around the world.
Original grape leaf uses were as wrappers for a variety of mixed fillings. Today, they have expanded and can be found in sauces, rice and grain dishes, steamed fish, and more. The leaves, when picked fairly young, are tender and tangy when blanched and brined – and commonly used for making grape-leaf pickles. They add a delicate note to many international cuisines, even Latin and Asian.
The leaves may even be incorporated into salads. These versatile leaves are packed with vitamins C, B, K, A, B6, along with iron, niacin, riboflavin, fiber, manganese, copper, folate, calcium, and more. They are low calorie and make a great substitution for those watching their weight.