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Start 'Em Young!
by Lon Rombough

Home winemaking is not an activity for all members of the family, but grapes should be. When planning your vineyard, don't leave out the children - plant something THEY can enjoy, too. A warm late summer or early fall day brings out the full aroma and flavor of the grapes and will give them more enjoyment than you'll probably have with the wine you make from your grapes. Here are some things to consider when planting table grapes for the family, especially the children.

-Choose a range of varieties. With an estimated 20,000 varieties of grapes worldwide, there HAS to be SOMETHING that will grow well for you. If you plant several varieties, they get a chance to exercise choice, and with the right varieties, you can extend the season over several weeks. Beyond that, let the kids know that grapes come in more than what they see in the grocery store. You can even include wine grapes in that - my youngest son started on my Foch winegrapes as a young boy and still enjoys the rich flavor and full sweetness of them in his later teens. He learned to eat grapes for FLAVOR, not for ease or other reasons. Which brings us to:

-Choose grapes that have seeds, as well as seedless grapes. I get mothers who think their kids are too delicate to spit or swallow seeds and insist on only seedless grapes. But grape seeds are MADE to be swallowed. Even the shape allows easy passage through the body and they help stimulate the system in the process. Instead of fussing over seeds, let the kids see that they can handle seeds with no problem, and they will, too.

-Get grapes that don't need spray. That will give you peace of mind about letting the kids munch to their heart's content.

-Show them how to pick properly. This one takes a little patience, but will help YOU, too. Teach the kids to either pick the whole cluster, or break the cluster stem rather than picking berries off a cluster on the vine. If they pick single berries, the wet "brush" can get rot started or attract wasps that will puncture the fruit remaining. If they take the cluster away from the vine, it will make it that much easier to go back the next time, with no yellowjackets to deal with.

- Plant an arbor for them, if you have room. The cool shade of an arbor is not only fun, it can make a good play house in summer.

-Get them in on pruning so they can see what is involved. You can make it fun if you show them how to make things with the prunings, as well - grape vine wreaths and the like.

-Juice. Learning how to make fresh, uncooked juice gives children a whole new dimension and shows them there is more than something purple that comes out of a can. And don't worry about any harmful effects. The worse thing that an excess of fresh grape juice can cause is loss of appetite and a very effective cleansing of the system.

-Cooking. If you have the right kind of grapes (ones with smooth, non fuzzy leaves) use some to make stuffed grape leaves. If ever there was a kid food, this is a prime one. The stuffing is easy to make, and rolling the leaves around the filling is a family activity of the first order. So when you plan your planting, remember that, for adults, wine is fine, but for kids, grapes are great!

© - Lon J. Rombough, B.S., M.S., ATM
No reprinting without permission of the author.

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