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Botanical Name:: Vitis vinifera (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Vitaceae
Other Species : Vitis vinifera, the European winemaking grapevine. Native to southern, western and central parts of Europe.
Vitis labrusca, the North American table and grape juice grapevines, sometimes used for wine. Native to the Eastern U.S. and Canada.
Vitis riparia, a wild vine of North America, sometimes used for winemaking and for jam. Native to the entire Eastern U.S. and north to Quebec.
Vitis rotundifolia, the muscadines, used for jams and wine. Native to the Southeastern U.S. from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico.
Vitis vulpina Frost grape. Native to the Midwest east to the coast up through New York.
Vitis cognitiae Ornamental Grape from East Asia, grown for its crimson autumn foliage.
There are many varieties of grapevines; most are cultivars of V. vinifera.
Synonym: Grape Vine.
Parts Used: Fruit, leaves, juice.
Habitat: Asia, Central and Southern Europe, Greece, California, Australia, and Africa.
A grape is the non-climacteric fruit that grows on the perennial and deciduous woody vines of the family Vitaceae. Grapes grow in clusters of 6 to 300, and can be black, blue, golden, green, purple, red, pink, brown, peach or white. They can be eaten raw or used for making jam, grape juice, jelly, wine and grape seed oil. Cultivation of grapevines occurs in vineyards, and is called viticulture. One who studies and practises growing grapes for wine is called a viticulturist.
Raisins are the dried fruit of the grapevine, and the name actually comes from the French word for “grape.” Wild grapevines are often considered a nuisance weed, as they cover other plants with their usually rather aggressive growth.
Since the early 21st century in the United States, other such industrialized countries, and the global functional food industry, there has been a rapidly growing recognition of red grapes for their consumer product popularity, nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, giving them commercial status as a “superfruit”.
The leaves of the grape vine itself are considered edible and are used in the production of dolmades.
Grapevines are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species – see list of Lepidoptera which feed on grapevines.
The name vine is derived from viere (to twist), and has reference to the twining habits of the plant which is a very ancient one; in the Scriptures the vine is frequently mentioned from the time of Noah onward. Wine is recorded as an almost universal drink throughout the world from very early times. The vine is a very longlived plant. Pliny speaks of one 600 years old, and some existent in Burgundy are said to be 400 and over.
The stem of old vines attains a considerable size in warm climates, planks 15 inches across may be cut therefrom, forming a very durable timber.
Artificial heat for forcing the grapes was not used till the early part of last century and the first accounts of vineries enclosed by glass date from the middle of that period.
The vine is propagated by seeds, layers, cuttings and grafting and succeeds in almost any gravelly soil; that of a volcanic nature produces the finest wines. It is a climbing shrub with simple, lobed, cut or toothed leaves (seldom compound) with thyrsoid racemes of greenish flowers, the fruit consisting of watery or fleshy pulp, stones and skin, two-celled, four-seeded.
ORIGIN, HISTORY OF CULTIVATION:
Vitis vinifera is thought to be native to the area near the Caspian sea, in southwestern Asia, the same region where apple, cherry, pear, and many other fruits are native. Seeds of grapes were found in excavated dwellings of the Bronze-age in south-central Europe (3500-1000 BC), indicating early movement beyond its native range. Egyptian hieroglyphics detail the culture of grapes and wine making in 2440 BC. The Phoenicians carried wine cultivars to Greece, Rome, and southern France before 600 BC, and Romans spread the grape throughout Europe. Grapes moved to the far east via traders from Persia and India. Grapes came to the new world with early settlement on the east coast, but quickly died out or did poorly. This was due to poor cold hardiness, insect, and disease resistance of Vinifera types. Spanish missionaries brought Vinifera grapes to California in the 1700s and found that they grew very well there. Today, US wine production is dominated by California, although Washington, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan also have significant commercial wine industries based on Vinifera grapes or French-American hybrids.
Vitis labrusca is found growing wild from Maine to the South Carolina Piedmont, west to Tennessee. Today, most Concord grapes are grown in New York and surrounding states.
Vitis rotundifolia is native from Virginia south through central Florida, and west to eastern Texas. This species has been enjoyed by southerners since antebellum times, and has received little attention outside of the southeast. Several thousand acres are cultivated in the southeastern states, mostly Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
All Vitis are “lianas” or woody, climbing vines. Tendrils occur opposite leaves at nodes, and automatically begin to coil when they contact another object. Vinifera and American bunch grapes have loose, flaky bark on older wood, but smooth bark on 1-yr-old wood. Muscadine vines have smooth bark on wood of all ages. Leaves vary in shape and size depending on species and cultivar. Muscadine grapes have small (2-3″), round, unlobed leaves with dentate margins. Vinifera and American bunch grapes have large (up to 8-10″ in width) cordate to orbicular leaves, which may be lobed. The depth and shape of the lobes and sinuses (spaces between lobes) varies by cultivar. Leaf margins are dentate.
Flowers are small (1/8 inch), indiscrete, and green, borne in racemose panicles opposite leaves at the base of current season’s growth. There are 5 each of sepals, petals, and stamens. Ovaries are superior and contain 2 locules each with 2 ovules. The calyptra, or cap is the corolla, in which the petals are fused at the apex; it abscises at the base of the flower and pops off at anthesis. Species in Euvitis may have 100+ flowers per cluster, whereas muscadine grapes have only 10-30. Vinifera and Concord grapes are perfect-flowered and self-fruitful, whereas some muscadine cultivars have only pistillate flowers.
Flowering in grape occurs at the basal nodes of current season’s growth in all species (left). Perfect flowered muscadines have longer stamens, while the pistillate flowers have short, reflexed stamens (right).
Most grapes are self-fruitful and do not require pollinizers; however, pistillate muscadines (e.g., ‘Fry’, ‘Higgins’, ‘Jumbo’) must be interplanted with perfect-flowered cultivars for pollination. Pollination is accomplished by wind, and to a lesser extent insects.
Grapes are true berries; small (<1 inch), round to oblong, with up to 4 seeds (Figure 16.1). Berries are often glaucous, having a fine layer of wax on the surface. Skin is generally thin, and is the source of the anthocyanin compounds giving rise to red, blue, purple, and black (dark purple) colored grapes. Thinning is not practiced for most types; crop load is controlled through meticulous pruning (see below). However, French-American hybrids may require cluster thinning for development of quality and proper vine vigor.
Constituents: The leaves gathered in June contain a mixture of cane sugar and glucose, tartaric acid, potassium bi-tartrate, quercetine, quercitrin, tannin, amidon, malic acid, gum, inosite, an uncrystallizable fermentable sugar and oxalate of calcium; gathered in the autumn they contain much more quercetine and less trace of quercitrin.
The ripe fruit juice termed ‘must’ contains sugar, gum, malic acid, potassium bi-tartrate and inorganic salts; when fermented this forms the wine of commerce.
The dried ripe fruit commonly called raisins, contain dextrose and potassium acid tartrate.
The seeds contain tannin and a fixed oil.
The juice of the unripe fruit, ‘Verjuice,’ contains malic, citric, tartaric, racemic and tannic acids, potassium bi-tartrate, sulphate of potash and lime.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Grape sugar differs from other sugars chemically. It enters the circulation without any action of the saliva. The warming and fattening action of grape sugar is thus more rapid in increasing strength and repairing waste in fevers but is unsuitable for inflammatory or gouty conditions.
The seeds and leaves are astringent, the leaves being formerly used to stop haemorrhages and bleeding. They are used dried and powdered as a cure for dysentery in cattle.
The sap, termed a tear or lachryma, forms an excellent lotion for weak eyes and specks on the cornea.
Ripe grapes in quantity influence the kidneys producing a free flow of urine and are apt to cause palpitation in excitable and full-blooded people. Dyspeptic subjects should avoid them.
In cases of anaemia and a state of exhaustion the restorative power of grapes is striking, especially when taken in conjunction with a light nourishing diet.
In cases of small-pox grapes have proved useful owing to their bi-tartrate of potash content; they are also said to be of benefit in cases of neuralgia, sleeplessness, etc.
Three to 6 lb. of grapes a day are taken by people undergoing the ‘grape cure,’ sufferers from torpid liver and sluggish biliary functions should take them not quite fully ripe, whilst those who require animal heat to support waste of tissue should eat fully ripe and sweet grapes.
Dried grapes; the raisins of commerce, are largely used in the manufacture of galencials, the seeds being separated and rejected as they give a very bitter taste. Raisins are demulcent, nutritive and slightly laxative.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.