Grape safety
June 19, 2017 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I have a random giant vine that I'm 99% sure is grapes of some sort growing on a fence. (They've actually migrated across my lawn to the fence on the other side, which is a different mystery). My question is: can I eat the grapes and/or the leaves safely? Pics here.. (added bonus -- all 3 of my pups in the first picture)
posted by Fig to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Yup. They may not taste super great(most wild grapes make fantastic grape jelly, but are pretty seedy and tart) but they won't kill you.
posted by rockindata at 6:29 PM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're asking "is this really a grape vine or is it some imposter that will kill me" then I think you're good. IANABotanist, info here

Seconding what rockindata said about them probably not being delicious for eating right off the vine. They will probably be pretty sour (even ripe) and the seeds are huge. Recommend making jam or jelly.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:33 PM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a YMMV I guess! Domesticated grapes (yay) that are backyard/organic can be absolutely wonderful - like sugar cubes. Some family friends grow grapes in the central valley and left an acre untouched one year because it had been purchased for a new highway.The grapes weren't sprayed with anything at all and fully vine ripened...and yeah, pretty amazing! My mom also has some backyard vines and they're small but sweet.

If they're small, seedy, and or tart they probably just need a little love - compost and water, or email your local master gardener's association for advice.

You can also (apparently) bake grapes into cake. I haven't tried this, but I'm intrigued!
posted by jrobin276 at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2017

Given their location (private property, in a suburban/urban environment), they're probably not a wild grape variety. They might be a table grape or a wine grape, which are good per their respective names. I actually really like wine grapes to eat way more than table grapes...but that's personal preference. If you live in a wine growing region, call your local extension office for growing tips. If you don't, call OSU here in Oregon. They won't check your ID when you call, and are usually as helpful as they can be.

But yeah, eat with abandon. For grape leaves, you should be picking out mediumish-smallish ones, as they tend to be more tender. The bigger they get the woodier they are, and don't quite pickle up right.

If they are wine grapes, making wine is real, real, dumb easy. You're not going to be winning any awards your first go out or anything, but you'll be able to make some tasty wine with minimal equipment, and any number of websites or books.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:59 PM on June 19, 2017

Your local Cooperative Extension office may be able to help with grape-growing information. They are a terrific resource.
posted by theora55 at 7:55 PM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

From petMD: "Grape and raisin (dried grapes) toxicity is well documented in dogs.* Although the exact substance that causes the toxic reaction is not yet known, dogs should not eat grapes and raisins because even small amounts can prove to be fatally toxic for a dog. Dogs of any age, breed, or gender may be affected."
posted by tomjoadsghost at 8:08 PM on June 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Take a ripe grape and split it open, examine the seeds. If the seeds are shaped like a normal grape seed and the fruit is sweet it is likely to be edible and you can experiment. At least, when I was a kid, I did and didn't die, but then, given some of the risks I took I probably should have.

What I was taught was; Grapes with curved seeds are not edible regardless of taste. Sickle shaped seeds = death's scythe; pip shaped seeds, should be okay. Taste the fruit, cautiously with the tip of your tongue where all those sweetness receptors are: if it tastes delicious you can put it in your mouth: If there is no soapy, burning, astringent, bitter, medicinal or unpleasant taste you can leave it in your mouth. If there is no unpleasant result you can salivate. If there is no unpleasant result you can chew it, and if there is still no unpleasant result - watch for tingling too - you may swallow it, but do not eat any seeds. Only eat one grape, or up to three berries.

A day later you can eat up to three grapes, or up to nine berries. At the end of the week you can eat nine grapes or a handful of berries.

If they are sour don't eat them, they are useless, except for making vinegar and could give you a tummy ache. Which doesn't mean they are poisonous. It would be the same kind of tummy ache probably that you would get from munching on a pound of raw green peas.

Purple berries that taste good are almost always edible, red berries that taste good are frequently edible, white berries are nearly always not edible and green ones are generally a bad bet, but might ripen, so are best to watch.

Fungus is never, ever, ever, edible, regardless of how it tastes, don't even taste it.

Don't eat seeds and nuts, ever, no matter how they taste, especially if they have a nice almond-taste. The nice almond taste indicates that the seed is likely to produce cyanide in some degree, and a plant that produces some nice tasting edible nuts can produce some lethal nuts a few twigs over. And that includes those seeds or nuts inside the fruit.

(There is no mystery at all about how they migrated. Some bird or animal ate them, exactly the way the grape plant planned it, and then the critter pooped the seeds out again on the other side of your lawn in new growing territory. That's the whole point of the grape plant producing fruit - to acquire transportation for the seeds.)

posted by Jane the Brown at 11:23 PM on June 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

I suspect Jane the Brown's advice is meant to distinguish grapes from toxic Canadian Moonseed. You can find pictures of other similar-looking plants here. My feeling, for what it's worth, is that unless the plant produces luscious grapes (i.e., it's immediately identifiable as a true grape) it's not worth bothering with it unless you get it checked out by a botanist.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:52 AM on June 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks folks! Despite the proximity, my dogs haven't tried eating any part of this plant, so we're good there. I, on the other hand, will be nibblin on some yard grapes later this year and maybe putting the canning kit I haven't used yet to work.
posted by Fig at 2:56 AM on June 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Both table and wine grapes are normally propagated by cuttings, so a named variety is really just a bunch of clones of a particularly tasty individual vine. Your volunteer vine is probably a seedling, so the grapes might not be particularly good. OTOH, you could discover something amazing!
posted by mr vino at 5:04 AM on June 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

They look pretty close to the Concord grapes I have growing on my fence. If you're looking for a sign they're edible, mine smell exactly like grape jelly when they're ripe.

I make jelly and regular grape juice every year, but I haven't been able to make any decent wine. I have eaten a few right off the vine, but mine have a very thick skin and huge seeds, making for a very unpleasant eating experience. Do any of your neighbors have grapes growing? We've had plants pop up all over my and my neighbor's yards, presumably because a helpful squirrel is transporting the seeds.

One word of warning - unless you're planning on eating a TON of grapes, keep your vine cut back. Mine spreads like crazy and I always have fruit rotting on the vine in September. I get so many bees in September. (And my dog doesn't seem interested in the grapes either, but I do keep an eye out for her nosing around in there)
posted by little king trashmouth at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even before you get this year's crop of grapes, you can blanch some of the leaves and use them to wrap dolmades. I'd go for the smaller or less exposed ones, maybe on the "yard" side rather than on the concrete side.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 11:25 PM on June 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, the yard side is my neighbor, so I can't really get to anything on their side with ease.

However! The new grapevine on the other side has some smaller/younger leaves, so some dolmas still can happen this year.
posted by Fig at 1:48 AM on June 22, 2017

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