Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Baby Fox Grapes

My life in appalachia baby fox grapes

fox grape noun A woody vine (Vitis labrusca) that bears small, edible grapes green in color but later turning brown. Same as possum grape.
1997 Nelson Country Folklore 49 After the frost, fox grapes that grew wild were gathered to make jelly.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


While I waited for The Deer Hunter to finish plowing the garden I took a peek at the baby fox grapes that grow along the creek. The grapes do grow wild on a woody vine, however the grapes aren’t all that small and they’re more of a purple color than brown. Pap says possum grapes grow in the woods-not along the creek and are much much smaller in size. I’ve never seen a possum grape but I want to.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Kathy Patterson
    March 12, 2022 at 2:15 pm

    We have fox grapes here on the farm in the Blue Ridge. The fox grapes are along the river (Big Reed Island). The grapes that grow in the woods vines go up into the trees so we can’t get up to them to check them out. I have never eaten them that grow in the woods. The grapes that grow on the river are not as plentiful as they use to be but they are still here. We have to beat out the wild life for them. Our local deer eat them along with the foxes and possums.
    When I was growing up the local alcoholics (drunks) would come and pick fox grapes to make wine. Mommy would get so mad at Willie Thomas and his buddies for hanging out around the river because we couldn’t go play in it when they were around. Fox grapes have a thick hull and are not very sweet. Mommy never used them in jams because we had the red grapes that were tame that were better (sweeter and more plentiful). Besides, they grew on the grainary and were easy to pick. Grandma had hers on the side of the barn. It was sunny and warm so they always had a big crop until the cow got into them one day. (Another story) Kathy Patterson

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    May 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Tipper I have fox grape vines all over the lower part of my property. No stream nearby and 75 yards to the nearest spring. But the area is dampish and the canopy is broken.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

    “my Aunt Emma could make fox grape jelly that gave a biscuit a college education” really put a smile on my face!

  • Reply
    June 4, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Because of the genus name, I wonder if they’re the grapes Lambrusco is made from. I think it’s an Italian wine, but don’t quote me, cause I only know two things about individual wines,
    1. If I like it, or
    2. If I don’t.
    Know what I mean? ;o)
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    When I was a lad living at Needmore, NC Fox Grapes grew in abundance along the Little Tennessee River. My dad and I would pick several five gallon buckets of them when they ripened and Mama would make wonderful jelly that as Jim said would give a biscuit a college education. The reintroduction of the Beaver spelled a death sentence to the Fox Grapes along the river, the grape vines seem to be their favorite food as they were thing they cut.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Jim’s right! Posseum grapes and Fox
    Grapes are not the same. I got some of
    those tiny little posseum grapes right
    beside my garden, near the creek.
    In the Pearcy Creek Straight, along the roadside, I use to go with daddy and we’d gather two wooden hampers full of Fox Grapes. He made sure to pick some pure green ones to help make his jelly have a tart taste.
    He could make the Best Jelly, I
    lived on that stuff for breakfast
    in my grammer and high school years.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    June 4, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Out here we don’t have the possum grapes, at least I’ve never seen any. WE do have the fox type, and I’ve never heard them called by that name, only wild grapes. Some folks make wine out of them as well as jelly.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 4, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Tipper, I’ve heard of Fox Grapes all my life. My dad talked about them and taught me that they were wild grapes. I agree with you they are not brown and they are not small.
    Never heard of possum grapes however I have seen small dark colored wild grapes. They were too bitter to eat. That could be the possum grapes. Perhaps they become sweeter after the frost like persimmons do, since the article said to eat them after the frost.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 4, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Tipper–I don’t know who wrote or compiled “Nelson County Folklore” but in my lexicon and knowledge of mountain foodways ‘possum grapes and fox grapes are NOT the same thing. Pap has it right. ‘Possum grapes are tiny and grow in the woods. Fox grapes, at least all of them I have ever seen, invariably grow along branches, spring seeps, or creeks (and they do best when there isn’t too much overhead canopy). Fox grapes are big; ‘possum grapes tiny. Fox grapes are somewhat sweet once ripe (and while that often coincides with early frost, just like persimmons it’s a myth that the frost is essential for them to reach full ripeness); ‘possum grapes are so sour they’d turn Marilyn Monroe’s lips into an inside-out pucker; fox grapes make wonderful jelly; as far as I know the only thing that eats ‘possum grapes are grouse (and yes, ‘possums). I did a bit of research and while ‘possum grape is a sort of catch-all term, it does not apply to fox grapes (vitis labrusca). Incidentally, several commercially grown grapes are cultivars of fox grapes.
    One final thought. I had many a fine early fall feast of fox grapes when I was a boy, and my Aunt Emma could make fox grape jelly that gave a biscuit a college education.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 4, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I have never heard of a possum grape. Most wild grapes are very small and I have never seen them sweet, we usually just make jam with them.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I think it is time to go hunting for those possum grapes. Time for you and the deer hunter to go on a hike and don’t forget to take a backpack filled with a nice lunch. Good luck!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 4, 2014 at 7:21 am

    When I was a child, I used to ride my bike on an old dirt road. Along the bank of that road was a tree with what we called fox grapes growing. I would watch those grapes until, it seems in my mind along about September or October. Then we made a stop and picked them and ate them. Those that I could reach would take home in my bike basket to Mom. She said not to be eatin’ that wild stuff unless I knew for sure what it was. I don’t remember who told me it was OK to eat the sweet/sour little grapes. Yes, those were a dark purple. I think Dad told me they were Fox Grapes. Years later I looked for that vine but the main road had been widened so I supposed that dozer pushed over that big tree and Fox Grape Vine as well. We have a lot of muscadines here, but the Fox grapes seem to disappear before they get ripe….so I have never really identified for sure…too many possums, birds and hungry raccoons around here. We have to cover our other vines if we want any of them…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Could you cover that cluster with a little bag of netting, (onion, tater) bag to protect them from the birds, etc. Sooo, when they get ripe, you could take a picture and show us, this Fall..??
    PS…We are finally supposed to get rain for sure today, maybe storms. Hey, I’ll take it any way it will come down on the garden, even if I am under the bed peeking out. I hate thunderboomers! Especially those with that loud, cracking lightning! Roy says by the time I see the flash, hear the sound, and scream, I would be fried anyhow, so for me to “quit that jumpin'”..I come by it from my Grandmother who swears lightning rolled and bounced around her hill and thru her house??? They lived just above the river outside of Marshall…those were some big lightenin’ storm tales she told me, when I was a kid…

  • Reply
    June 4, 2014 at 6:11 am

    I’ll see if I can remember to get a picture of some.. The phrase “sour grapes” has to come from possum grapes, they will curl your tongue…

    • Reply
      B. Ruth
      June 11, 2018 at 8:33 am

      Hey…I done forgot about “sour grapes”…Seems like I remember folks around here calling just about any wild grape sour grapes…except muscadines …

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