Possum Grapes

possum-grapes

Possum Grapes

As I told you a few weeks back, I grew up enjoying the goodness of the Fox Grapes that grow by the Stamey Branch which runs through our mountain holler. Every time Pap would talk of fox grapes he’d tell me about possum grapes. He said they were smaller and typically don’t grow near water like fox grapes do. He also said they were so tart you could barley eat them.

Every time he told me about them, I wished I could see them for myself. Pap said he knew where some used to grow in one of the hollers above the house, but that he hadn’t seen any in years.

It was probably May or June when The Deer Hunter took me outside and pointed out a grape vine growing high in the oak trees along the front of our yard. I said “Wonder what they are? I think they’re too far from the creek to be fox grapes.” Then suddenly I remembered the possum grapes. I said “Do you think they could be the possum grapes Pap was always telling me about?” The Deer Hunter said he didn’t know, we’d just have to wait and see.

I could barley stand it till the grapes ripened. I checked every few days and it seemed to take forever.

The grapes are finally ripe. I believe they are possum grapes. They are much smaller than fox grapes and are a deep black color. And oh my they are tart!

Makes me wish Pap was here so that I could tell him I knew where some possum grapes were…in my yard 🙂

Tipper

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    September 24, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t live near water, but there is a natural spring above my house, and the original builders placed all sorts of underground drains to keep the area drained. The house next door requires a constant sump pump in basement. Anyway, I fight grape vines constantly all over. At first I thought they may be your possum grapes, and then I remembered that natural spring in the area. I cannot vouch for the taste, as I cut them down before they bear.

    Tipper, I would love to know the times I have wished my mom and dad were here so I could ask them something. I know Pap was a world of info just as my dad was. The great generation could work on electric gadgets or even name that weed that kept cropping up in the yard. They just knew all kinds of interesting stuff. My dad is not here so I can’t ask, but bet he knew lots about possum and fox grapes

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 24, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Tipper,
    My dad and moma use to live in the Hurley Cove, right before you get to the Hewitts Quarry. Me and my brother, Harold, went up in there to dad’s old Homeplace. As we neared the Old Homeplace, a creek was dried up at the lower end, and Wild Hogs had rooted up the place. Turkeys had also visited, but there was tiny Posseum Grapes that had fallen from the canopy above and they were everywhere. We both stood still as we entered the remains of where Mom and Dad once lived. It was like being on Hallowed Ground. …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 24, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Tipper,
    Wish you had a picture of only the cluster and maybe a penny beside one grape so I could try and recognize them…The grapes I mentioned a while back were growing on a dry bank up a mimosa tree in mainly a open area…These grapes were little and black as pitch. We would pick them for Mother and she made jelly…it was good…but the grapes for the most part were sour…they did ripen later in the year more toward the end of October to be sweeter if they stayed on the vine which many did not…I would love to know if I have a cobweb in my brain and Dad did call these possum grapes and not fox grapes…Fox grapes as I know them grew so high in the trees in usually just a few straggly vines that you risked your life going after them…we usually picked the up off the ground…some had soft spots, worms or pesky yeller jackets blowing them and gnats…That is when Dad called them a wild muscadine or fox grape…he would say those you’re picking up ort to be wiped off cause some critter like a raccoon or possum or fox may have peed on them…eckkkk
    Thanks for this post…I wish I could get to that Fox grape/possum grape vine today…that we rode our bicycles by and picked…but alas they bulldozed it over to put in a four lane…If I was able I would hunt the little woodland edge still on the side of the four lane and see if I could find a great great grandchild vine of that old grape…Why didn’t I take a cutting when I was in the sixth grade…why, because it was home and thought it would always be there…Yes, I really did break off plants and try to root them but more flowers than grapes…lol

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      September 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      What I call possum grapes are smaller than peas and grow in tight clusters on vines whose leaves look like muscadine leaves only smaller. I have muscadines in the woods behind my house. Their fruit is about the same size as a fox grape but instead of the dark purple of a fox grape they are a rusty dark brown. Fox grapes leaves are a more traditional shaped, like cultivated grapes. I think the Concord grape was bred from a cultivar of the fox grape but I am not sure of that.
      Tipper’s picture looks like what I know as a possum grape. The cluster would have been much larger originally but you can see the stems where many if not most of them have fallen off.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 24, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Well then I heard that possum grapes got sweet after a frost like ‘simmons do. I think they are called possum grapes because only possums and little boys can climb high enough to get them.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 24, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Do folks in Appalachia say, as I grew up saying, “He was grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ grapes.”?

    • Reply
      aw griff
      September 24, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      I don’t remember ever hearing like a possum eatin grapes. We said like a possum eatin persimmons. There was a dirty version of that I used to hear but I’ll leave that off. I believe I heard this one the most, He was a grinnin like a mule eatin saw briars. Briars is pronounced in such away I don’t how to spell it, but I cam shore say it.

    • Reply
      Papaw
      September 24, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      Never heard about possums and grapes but it brings to mind foxes and pokeberries but the end it talked about wudden the end that grins.

  • Reply
    Susieq
    September 24, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I like sour and tart, as in green apples , and lemons, so would probably enjoy a good jam or jelly rendered from those wonderfully right in your yard kind of berries . So neat that they are there. Reckon it would take a heap of sugar 🙂 , Tipper let us know how the taste was , if and when you cook them up into something tasty.

    • Reply
      Papaw
      September 24, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      If you use fruit pectin to make jelly it is half sugar and half fruit anyway. You could make jelly out of pine cones and it would still taste sweet.

  • Reply
    Don
    September 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

    They make some killer jelly, that’s for sure. When I was in 5th grade I told my teacher about the wild grapes near my house and she asked me to bring her some. I brought her a couple bread bags full of them. She took them home and made jelly. She then brought a jar of jelly and a jar of peanut butter, with a loaf of bread and we all got half a peanut butter and possum grape jelly sandwich. It was good stuff.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    September 24, 2018 at 8:58 am

    When you wrote about fox grapes, I did a lot of googling to help me understand why Mom never talked of picking them. She definitely would have found some use for any kind of grape whether it be jelly, juice or jam. I found out that fox grapes can only be found in a few places, NC being one of them. That doesn’t make sense! You are right across the hill…
    Possum grapes did grow in Eastern KY, but I doubt anyone used them because it would have taken too much of their precious sugar to sweeten them.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 24, 2018 at 8:45 am

    I’ve never made possum grape jelly but have ate it and it was good. I think they are still abundant in e.ky. I have one vine that has grown up in one of my pecan trees.
    As a boy , ate the possum grapes many times and they are so tart they put an edge on your teeth but not as bad as an unripe persimmon.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 24, 2018 at 8:30 am

    That’s so cool, you waited a long time to find those possum grapes! Is there enough to make Jelly? Tart things always make the best jelly, I think.

  • Reply
    Tom Deep
    September 24, 2018 at 8:30 am

    What a neat story and a great remembrance of Pap.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    September 24, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Maybe he asked an angel to transplant a vine there to remind you he was still watching over you.

    • Reply
      Brenda Schlosser
      September 25, 2018 at 2:19 am

      Jackie, this is exactly what I was going to write as my comment. I truly believe Pap made this happen for his sweet Tipper.

  • Reply
    Nancy Hofmeister
    September 24, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Now that is just plain fun!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 24, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Sounds like you are describing what in a previous post I called “fox grapes”. Anyway the description of smaller and black certainly fits. Now if they taste kinda metallic, I ‘d be certain it was a match. I never made the connection of growing in drier locations though, nor heard that said.

    Concerning grapes, I just got a message from the Mountain View bulk foods store near Greeneville, TN this morning about Concord grapes from New York arriving today. Apparently they take bulk orders and people order canning quantities.

    The store behind Concord grapes, I think I recall reading, is that they were originally discovered in the wild near Concord, Massachusetts. That is how they got the name.

  • Reply
    tmc
    September 24, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Yep, Jolly Ranchers don’t hold a candle to possum grapes, they are so tart ( Sour ) don’t know how anybody can use them for anything. I’m sure somebody figured it out, take a whole lot of sugar to tame that down.

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