Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grandaddy's Concord Grapes

My grandparents had concord grapes growing in their backyard. One giant vine grew over the arbor where we would hang out for garden visits or family parties, and another group of vines grew along the whole distance of their side yard. The grapes they grew were called Concord Grapes and they are very special and distinctive grapes.

Concord grapes are super round like perfect marbles. The skins are a deep, dark purple and when you bite into one, the skins slip right off to expose a sweet, light green fruit inside. Also, they have big seeds that you have to spit out. The skins are tart and the insides are sweet, but together they are perfect. For as long as I can remember, I've had a special process for eating a Concord grape:
1. take a little nibble off the end to break the skin
2. hold the grape up to my mouth and pinch the squishy grape into my mouth
3. eat the insides and spit out the seeds
4. eat the skins
5. repeat as necessary

When the grapes would start to ripen in my grandparents' backyard, we would stand out there and snack and munch to our hearts' content. My aunt's dog Princess used to go along the grapevine and eat the grapes right off the grapevine (since then, I've learned that dogs aren't supposed to have grapes, but we didn't know that then, and she was fine - so all's well that ends well!). It was super cute. She also used to pick the raspberries. She was really good at it!

Last night I ate dinner at Cafe Gratitude and they had freshly-pressed Concord Grape juice available. 
I loved it so much!!

My grandmother used to cook up loads and loads of grapes and turn them into no-sugar grape juice and no-sugar grape jelly. The flavor of these grapes, when you cook the skins and the insides all together, is just so amazing: powerful, sweet, earthy, slightly astringent, and totally delicious.

The year that my grandmother died, we were all busy caring for her, and then thinking of her and planning her memorial... and I recall that at some point after she had died, I was visiting my grandpa and he said that the grapes were going to go bad and that we should pick them. The grapes had been a little neglected, in favor of more important things. So, he and I went out into the garden and picked until we filled two 5-gallon buckets. It was an odd time, and we had heavy hearts, but it was also so refreshing to be out in the garden together, tending and caring for the bounty of the grapes. I took all those grapes home, and thought of these two people I loved so much, and made loads of grape juice and grape jelly.

aren't they beautiful?!

I was hoping to post about Concord Grapes, but I wasn't sure if the timing would work out... Then, last week I spotted some at the farmers' market and I jumped for joy. Eating them is such a lovely throwback to a different time and place - standing under the arbor and snacking on grapes together with my grandparents...

this is an accurate representation of actual events!
The last couple of days, Nick and Jojo (from Vegan in Brighton) have been in Santa Cruz visiting*, and it is so super fun! I really wanted to take them out kayaking, so this morning we innocently headed out to rent kayaks and the most amazing thing happened! A huge giant humpback whale stuck his head up right behind our kayak! Like 10 feet away from us! He was coming up and blowing his whale breath and sticking his head up all around us. There were a few other kayakers out there too, because apparently there had been an article in the paper about all the whales in our bay. The whole morning was just so unbelievable. In addition to so much whale magic, we also saw sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, pelicans, seagulls, terns, loads of tiny fish in the water... and the whole thing was just glorious. So super special!

*this is why I am posting my mofo post at 11pm!


  1. You hung out with vegan in Brighton! Judging from your fun doodle it looks like you had a fantastic time! I'd love to see all that wildlife and kayaking is so much fun :)
    I've only recently heard of concord grapes but I'm not sure I've seen them over here.

  2. Good lord! You guys hit the jackpot!! Score!

  3. That is incredible! The whales are getting frisky - there have been quite a few reports in Australia of whales getting very close. A few people have been accidentally injured by our giant curious playful friends. I am so happy that you got to have such a magical experience. :D

  4. That sounds like a wonderfully wild kayak ride! And look at both you and Jojo still posting so diligently. Props.
    Wonderful story about the grapes. I don't know that I've ever eaten them as fresh as that, though I saw some at the farmers market yesterday and they smelled so sweet and wonderful, bees buzzing and all.

  5. I too have fond memories of concord grapes in my grandma's garden! That dusky coating and the sweet, rich flesh inside - love that memory! And I am jealous of your kayaking adventure. I love my kayak but I live in the desert now, so I don't get a lot of chances to take it out, and never near whales. Someday!

  6. What a touching story about your grandparents — left me a little teary-eyed. You sure have a lot of wonderful memories.

    We had concord grapes at our house in Wis., and they were exactly as you described. The skin always made my mouth pucker a little, but I ate it anyway. There was a kind of orange-red spider that lived among the vines. Did you have those?

    The kayaking trip sounds like the kind of mind-blowing experience that gets re-lived over and over in your mind. What a gift.

    (There's a little typo that says dogs should have grapes instead of shouldn't.)

  7. What an amazing thing to have happen while Jojo and Nick were in town! So jealous of you guys, haha. That looks absolutely magical.

  8. I am a big baby when it comes to pits even if I do get to spit. The Cafe Gratitude grape juice looks so refreshing and is a great accompaniment to your heartwarming story and wonderful doodles.

  9. That's a lovely story, Amey!!! :-) And how fun to kayak with Jojo and whales!!!

  10. Wow wow wow wow wow wow wooooow!!!

  11. Amey, this was totally the best day!! I can't stop thinking about the whale and coming back here to look at your doodle!


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