California Wild Grape is a native deciduous grapevine with edible purple fruits and beautiful fall foliage.
Wild Grape is a native food with edible grapes and leaves. It is generally used as an ornamental in native gardens, but the tart, juicy fruits can also be used as food for humans and wildlife - cooked, dried, or made into wild jams, jellies, or pies (sweeter when dried). Some adventurous home-brewers are even using them to ferment unique wines! Others crafty gardeners use it as a hardy rootstock for other grape varieties.
The leaves can also be steamed and used to wrap vegetables, fruits, or grains ("Dolmas"), a traditional food use in many cultures, imparted a pleasant flavour. The young tendrils can be a pleasantly sour snack when eaten raw. The leaves are even used in pickling to keep pickles crispy in storage.
Wild Grape can be an excellent ornamental in the home landscape. The most stunning visual quality emerges in autumn when it's colorful maple-like leaves begin to accent gracefully-suspended clusters of purple fruits. This natural beauty can be displayed prominently in various thoughtful ways throughout the home landscape. Wild Grape can be planted along a fence line as a beautiful privacy hedge. It can be trellised elegantly over an arbor, a porch railing, or an entrance gate. It can even be allowed to ramble over the ground, creating an attention-catching ground cover.
Environment and Culture
Wild Grape is home to riversides and streambanks throughout much of California and Southern Oregon, often climbing and rambling up and around other trees, such as Oregon White Oak, California Black Oak, Pacific Madrona, or California Foothill Pine. The fruits are prized by the songbirds and other wildlife.
Wild Grape can tolerate dry months and partial shade, but if you give it regular moisture and full heat/sun, it will thrive! In the right conditions, it can be a very vigorous plant and will need pruning to keep in the area/shape you prefer.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Prune annually in Winter as needed for fruit production and shape (it can be pruned hard back to the main stem annually, once established, if desired). Harvest the leaves in Spring/Summer for veggie-wraps, never picking more than 1/3 of the leaves on the plant. Steam or par-boil leaves, and then wrap any combination of delicious foods. See recipes for "Dolmas". Give extra water at the end of Summer and harvest the extra-juicy fruits in Autumn when the grapes are fully plump and ripe (usually dark purple). Eat fresh, dry for Winter use, or crush and strain seeds for excellent jams, jellies, or wines. Experiment with this beautiful native food and let us know what you love!
Native Range: CA, OR
USDA zones: 6-9
Ease of Care: Easy
Deer Resistance: High
Light Requirements: Full Sun -- Part Shade
Soil Type: Versatile, prefers well-drained loam.
Water Requirements: Adaptable, but prefers moisture.
Pollination: Self Fertile
Bearing Age: 2 Years
Size at Maturity: up to 30ft in length (prune as needed)