3. DO YOU SPRAY YOUR GRAPES?

Because of the high humidity and temperatures during the late spring and summer months here in the eastern United States, it is more difficult to control fungal diseases like downey mildew, powdery mildew, and black rot. The primary insects pests include Japanese Beetle and Grape Berry Moth. We refer to the Virginia Tech Spray Guide for American hybrid grape varieties for our spraying. We have found over the years that watching the weather and spraying at critical times allows us to get by with spraying less often and with less spray material. We attempt to do a more thorough job of spraying early in the season. When this is done, we have found that we do not need to spray a number of the later season sprays that would result in residue buildup on the berries. Typically, our last sprays are put on mid to late July, and our harvest begins in early September. This provides 4-8 weeks of rains and sunlight to the bunches before they are harvested.

We no longer use general herbicide applications for weeds, though may spot spray problem areas. We have increased our mechanical weed control and are experimenting with cover crops. We do not use chemical fertilizers, but instead apply locally sourced animal manures. We strive to learn more about how to minimize the use of sprays on the grapes and to use materials that are safer for ourselves, our customers, and the environment.

5. WHEN ARE YOU OPEN?

Our season begins around the first of September when we open the farm stand for customers to come pick their own or purchase ready picked grapes. We open at 8 AM, Monday through Saturday, and close at dark. WE ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS. For pick-your-own or small quantities of ready-picked grapes, you do not need to call. If you wish to purchase more than a bushel of ready-picked grapes, it is good to call ahead so we can have them ready.

6. HOW LONG DOES THE SEASON LAST?

The length of harvest depends on several factors – the size of the crop, the quality of the fruit, and the volume of orders. As a general rule, we have grapes through most of September.

7. HOW DO I CARE FOR MY PURCHASED GRAPES?

Concord and Niagara grapes, American hybrids, are more perishable than the Europen-type grapes sold through grocery stores year round. Concord and Niagara grape skins are much softer. They need to be handled with care to keep skins from splitting. We do our best during harvest to pick and handle the grapes with care. They are moved to cold storage here on the farm as soon as they are picked. It is important that they be refrigerated if planning to keep them for a while. We’ve found that placing them in a sealed container in the refrigerator keeps them fresh longer than simply putting them in a bowl. They keep well for several weeks.

We advise using the grapes fairly quickly after purchase. If one plans to work them up for jam, juice, wine, or to be eaten in a day or two, they can be kept safely in a cool dry area un-refrigerated; but, refrigeration is best.

8. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CONCORD AND THE NIAGARA VARIETIES OF GRAPES?

The Concord and the Niagara varieties of grapes are both North American in origin, as opposed to the Europen varieties of grapes typically sold year-round in grocery stores. Concords are blue in color, and do not have a reddish glow in the sunlight when ripe. Niagaras are “white grapes” and are more light green-yellow in color. It is a bit more difficult to tell when a Niagara berry is ripe. The berries actually turn from a green shade to a somewhat yellow color when ripe. The amount of sugar in the Concord and Niagara berries continues to rise over the month of September. Both varieties are very delicious to eat, great for making juice, jams, and jellies, and for making wine. Each variety has a unique flavor of its own. It’s all a matter of taste as to which variety is your favorite.

9. HOW DOES ONE EAT THIS TYPE OF GRAPE?

Concord and Niagara grapes have what is called a slip skin, and offer a unique eating experience totally independent of Europen-type grocery store grapes. The usual way of eating this type of grape is to hold a single berry with your fingers, squeeze the berry firmly into your mouth to get all the juice, and swallow the pulp whole, including the seeds, and then throw away the skin. The pulp and skins are more acidic if chewed, however the skins are rich in antioxidants and very nutritious if eaten. Alternatively, chew the whole grape, including the skin, and sieve out the seeds with the teeth and tongue. Or for every last bit of nutrition and fiber, crunch the seeds to get the grape seed oils. Whatever your favorite method, be sure to introduce a friend to this eating experience!