Fox Grapes

fox-grapes

Fox Grape Bonanza on the Blue Ridge Divide

In 1947, we moved into the Steer Creek area near the Blue Ridge Divide. The following year the fox grapes hit. All the grape vines up and down that creek were hanging big, full of wild fox grapes. The old lady and all of ’em we picked grapes up and down that creek. We made jelly out of ’em. I fooled around one day and picked eleven bushels! I made thirty—six gallons of wine out of it…Back then, the fox grapes—out in the field of alders—could be counted on to produce a big grape haul every four or five years. But today, all the wild fox grapes are gone from that territory (in north Georgia). The muscadines are still there, but the fox grapes have disappeared.

—Curtis Underwood, Resaca, Georgia – “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine”

—-

Lucky for us the fox grapes are still going strong along the Stamey Branch.

As a boy, Pap, helped his grandmother gather fox grapes each year. He’d climb the trees to reach grapes that couldn’t be gathered from the ground. Pap said they used tow-sacks to carry the grapes, because buckets were hard to come by. His mother and grandmother canned the grape juice and sometimes whole grapes to use during the winter months. They also made jelly and jam from the grapes.

On one grape gathering expedition Pap lost his prize possession. He fell out of one of the trees, landed in the rocky creek bed, and broke his pocket watch. He said he was proud of the watch and was so disappointed when he fell and broke it. His Uncle Wayne tried to fix it, but never managed to. Pap said he never did get another pocket-watch, but he continued to help his mother and grandmother gather grapes every year and later on he helped Granny and me do the same.

Tipper

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Carolyn Anderson
    September 11, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    We picked Fox Grapes along Crawford’s Creek where I grew up. We climbed way up high in the trees that grew along the creek bank. They made the best jelly. We also sold some to Bobby Tiger when he had a store in Hayesville, NC.
    My friends, sister and brother and I had the best time doing this.
    I wish kids could experience the good outdoor times we had doing this. Great education, exercise, etc. We loved it.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    September 10, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    We occasionally have had these grow along our back fence. I figured it was a weed of some sort, but the grapes are pretty. I didn’t realize it was edible.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 10, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Possum grapes are like persimmons. They need a frost before they get really sweet. They make better jelly if you pick them before though because the pectin level is higher.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Tipper,
    The picture I am seeing is definitely wild muscadine grapes…however…my Dad called the wild grape that grew up into the trees with only a few scattered grapes Fox grapes, too…I believe the name is interchangeable Fox Grape to some Wild Muscadine to others…The Fox grape or Possum grape I knew and also Dad called it (definitely_…was usually found hanging in clusters with a bigger leaf like say a Concord grape. It was very small, black with a sour taste…editable but used for jelly more than eating…Dad would sometimes call the Catawba grape a wild grape…of course that is where it was discovered…wild…We still have lots of wild muscadine vines growing among our woodland…Alas we don’t have the red fox nor the Bob White Quail left to feed on them like in the past…I haven’t even heard the turkeys this year…No Grouse at all in years…I suppose the pesky coyotes are responsible for their demise…They go along finding nests like the wild pig finds an acorn and eats them all…sickening…Seems the more you kill the more they kits they have…
    Love me some Muscatine’s…Scuppernongs…wild grapes and fox grapes…Our tame vines planted were showing many grapes…but the drought caused the birds to take advantage…so not so many now…we had bronze scuppernongs and black muscadines in long rows on our driveway…Can’t wait until the big producers in our area have them ready…I can eat them by the basketful…lol
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Growing up along side the Little Tennessee we gathered buckets of Fox Grapes which my Mom turned into wonderful Jelly and Juice. There are not nearly as many Fox Grapes as there once was,my Dad and I attribute this to the re-introduction of the beaver, we noticed one of the first things the beaver cut were the Fox Grape vines. This was particularly noticeable just above the confluence of Brush Creek and the Little Tennessee River where we once picked several five gallon buckets of grapes in a couple of hours but now all the vines are gone.

  • Reply
    Papaw
    September 10, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Fox grapes were plentiful along Wiggins Creek but you were lucky to get to them before the grape poachers got there. We didn’t climb for grapes because the trees along the creek wouldn’t hold us up. The sections with larger trees had vines but produced very few grapes. We usually pulled the vines down and picked off what stayed on. The ones that fell off, we picked up off the ground or out of the creek. One of us would stand down the creek a little ways and pick up the floaters.
    We grew grapes on the farm but never got enough so every summer we went in search of the wild ones. I think the best grapes were those that escaped from the vineyards of earlier settlers and had mixed with the natives. They were as sweet as honey. We would pinch the skin and slip the inner part inside our mouth then put the skin in too. We didn’t chew because of all the seeds inside the center and because the skin was bitter if you chew too long. So we just wallered it all around in our mouths until all the sweet was gone then spit it all out.
    Mommy canned one batch grape juice that was used in place of sacramental wine at church. She was more than particular with it. She made it from the freshest cleanest grapes and didn’t allow any of us to touch it.

  • Reply
    Tmc
    September 10, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Not sure I’ve ever seen a fox grape, we had a lot of what we called possum grapes, and muscadines , I remember those possum grapes would put a pucker in your strang, jolly ranchers couldn’t hold a candle to a mouth full of possum grapes.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    September 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Dear Tipper, We used to have a fox grape vine in our backyard when I was growing up. We also had the regular Concord grape vine. We always cleaned out the Concord grapes, but were totally uninterested in the fox grapes. I wish my mother had made some jelly with those and I would probably have a different memory of fox grapes. I remember standing out at the school bus stop with the neighborhood children eating grapes while waiting on the bus. They were cold and delicious that time of morning.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 10, 2018 at 9:15 am

    I’ve had muscadine and possum grape jelly but no fox grape jelly. Possum grapes are the little small ones and mostly sour but they do make a good tasting jelly.
    I had a good friend who loved to make elderberry wine and him and his uncle would gather and put them in whiskey barrels they got from the distilleries in Bardstown ky. At that time the barrels were free, but I think you have to buy them now. Everone said his wine was good but not being a drinker I never tried any. He’s gone now and I wished I had at least tasted his elderberry wine.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    September 10, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Mom knew how to identify every berry, nut or green that was edible, but I don’t remember fox grapes. Maybe they didn’t grow where I was raised or mom would have found them. I’ve got to research them so I will know when they get ripe and what the tree looks like.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    September 10, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Good morning, Tipper!…..I can almost taste that Fox Grape Jelly on biscuits or toast…..Do you know where near Blairsville or your area that I can buy some?…..Thanks!

    • Reply
      tipper
      September 10, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      Rick-I don’t know of any stores or produce stands that sell them. The only thing I can think of is to listen to the local radio station during party-line to see if someone is selling them. Or call in to party-line and say you’re looking for them.

      • Reply
        Rick Shepherd
        September 11, 2018 at 11:28 pm

        Thanks Tipper!…..When we get moved to Blairsville I will check it out!

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    September 10, 2018 at 8:22 am

    The jelly is the best. I stand on the top of my husband’s truck to gather them. Just an old farm truck. Here in Michigan they’re going strong.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Fox
    September 10, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Grandma made lots of jelly from the grapes that were growing along the holler in Ranger, NC. I would always ask what kind of grapes they were, Dad would say, fox grapes. Well I just figured that’s what he called them because of we who we are. Cause that was “Fox holler” to me and always will be.
    We had some growing along the bank here in Culberson, NC, I made some jelly. I believe those grapes make the best jelly.

    • Reply
      tipper
      September 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Rebecca-that is funny! I would have thought the same thing if I was a Fox growing up near Fox Grapes 🙂

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 10, 2018 at 8:02 am

    I wish I could see what you call fox grapes. What we called fox grapes were not so good. They are small, black as jet and have a brassy taste. What we called simply wild grapes were bigger and blue. Those are the good ones. They did not look like your picture.

    There is a ‘tame’ grape that is ripe now that is the best ever. I rarely see them. The underside of the leaves are very white but with lots of ginger-colored hairs along the veins. There is another similar one with the underside of the leaves being completely ginger-colored with no white. I saw some of those in Cherokee, NC on this past Friday.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    September 10, 2018 at 7:52 am

    The grapes shown look like what we call “mustang” grapes in Central Texas. There are actually two varieties (I think): one has heart shaped leaves and the other has an almost lacey edge look with deep indentations making an irregular edge to the leaf. There are also 2 ripenings: one around the 4th of July and one at the end of the July. I made jelly again out of the first ones this year but the drought made the second ripening produce pea sized grapes – I should have tried making Jelly with those just to see what it would taste like.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 10, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Tipper–One of my aunts made wonderful fox grape jelly. It would, to quote an old jingle, “give a biscuit a college education.” I made a point of keeping an eye out for fox grapes during my summer rambles (mostly fishing area trout streams), and there were wonderful vines out on Brush Creek. Like the commentator in the book says, the vines seem to have disappeared to a considerable degree. Or maybe I’m just not in nature’s bosom as much as I was as a kid (certainly true), or perhaps not as observant (possibly true), but I sure don’t see fox grapes the way I once did.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 10, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Tip, I’ve eaten your Fox Grape Jelly and it is top of the line….best grape jelly ever. It’s sad to see the old ways going by but I suppose it’s just life. I don’t see new traditions coming along to replace the old ones that are passing away. Maybe it’s the age of electronics that now replace the old ways. I can’t see it as fulfilling as as the things you make with your hands but I’m part of the older time.

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