GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show43
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Show #43/604 - California Backyard with Grapes and More

Grapes are easy to grow, they're fast growing, can be adapted to all parts of the country, are fun to eat, can be eaten fresh, in juice or dried and they make excellent ornamental plants and a great arbor plant. Today we're in the central valley of California visiting a private home that has integrated formal European gardens with the lush California tradition of growing fruit, especially grapes. Here we'll learn about planting and growing grapes, training and trellising them and cooking with them in unusual dishes.

Rebecca is a Garden Smart viewer that lives in the central valley of California. She has a beautiful home and gardens. The gardens are the formal style with unusual plantings. She, her husband and daughter love Europe and were trying to create something that looked more European than the San Joaquin Valley, which they love. The yard has a pool and fountains and beautiful topiaries and different types of roses, which are enormous in the spring. They used the boxwood hedges to frame certain plantings and create outdoor rooms. They've had some great parties in the back yard, the patios are wonderful. Over 1 patio hangs a chandelier from a tree. They have a seating and eating area beneath their grapevines. They also have a lot of unusual trees, including a lot of fruit trees. They decided that if they were to have a tree it must provide multiple functions. Thus when they bought the house 15 years ago they gutted the landscape and began replanting with fruit trees. They probably have 30 or 40 different varieties of trees, most of which are fruit bearing and provide the most amazing display of color during the spring. Charlie particularly likes the big Pecan tree which provides a lot of shade. There are also peach and plum trees. One is an Elberta Peach, it is a free stone and wonderful for baking, very juicy. The color is wonderful and since the fruit is ripe today, you can peel the skin off. This peach is great fresh, but because it is a little soft the flesh doesn't hold up when canning. The plum is an Elephants Heart and it too has a great color and is very sweet and beautiful. There are several plants that have just "arrived," things like Morning Glory. Their neighbors have the plant and it has moved in here, as well. Rebecca also has 3 fig trees, although they have never planted fig trees. This area is called Fig Garden, at the turn of the century, the area was divided into 6 acre lots, for gentlemen farmers. And those farmers grew figs. So many years later figs are volunteers, they just show up. Also this backyard has outdoor rooms intentionally placed so they can be enjoyed. The formal hedges have soft branches, etc. cascading over them. In one is the Elberta peach which has a Royal Anne Cherry next to it which is a pretty yellow cherry. Next to it is a White Indian peach, then a triple graft Plum. It has Kelsey plums, Santa Rosa plums and one other Rebecca can't remember. Next to that is a nectarine. Since this is California they just must have grapes and a beautiful grape arbor. To learn more about grapes we turn to Kevin Neely, Rebecca's old friend, from kindergarden. Kevin is a local nurseryman and local grape expert.

Kevin talks to us today about planting and raising grapes. Kevin has started digging a hole for a grape vine, this area has great soil for grapes. Grapes like a location with full sun and very well drained sandy loam fertile soil. You can use a good premium planter mix with native soil as a backfill mix. Grapes are long lived so you want to amend the soil when planting. In this mix there is fir bark, kelp, oyster shell and a little manure. Watering depends on the type of grape. The hole Kevin is digging is about twice the width of the root ball and the depth is about the same as the root ball. Kevin is planting a variety called Lady Finger, which is an excellent green table grape and one of the most popular in the Fresno area. Thompson Seedless and the Flame Seedless are two others that love heat. People want a seedless grape thus have gone to the Thompson Seedless, Flame Seedless and The Lady Finger, all can be thrown in the refrigerator and popped in your mouth, like candy. It's a matter of personal preference whether one chooses a green grape, a red grape or a blue grape. If in the north you'll need to be more selective about grape varieties and need to grow a more hardy variety. Do a little research online and you can find the right one for your area. When planting look at the roots, this plant is good, very well rooted. If it were heavily rooted, break them apart a little. Kevin pulls it out of the container and puts it in the ground. This is critical, make sure that the top of the root ball after planting is a little above grade. You want a slope. If it were low, water could pocket in there, causing root rot. Plant it like it was in the container, with a little of the roots exposed to the air. Use your backfill and gently slope the soil away from the top of the root ball. This soil is sandy loam, which is excellent for grapes because it has excellent drainage and provides the nutrients needed. Add a little water to pack it down, help it settle in. Once in the ground Kevin looks at staking. You want a good sturdy stake, then put it into the ground maybe 2 feet because it will support the grape for the duration. At some point you will probably add a wire system at the top. Usually wire is placed 2 to 2 and 1/2 feet above grade with the top wire approximately 5 feet above grade. That is an individual decision, the room you have will help make the decision. One of the biggest problems our viewers have with grapes is how to train them and prune them. How do we get the best grape production? Kevin considers this plant to be about 1 year old. He looks for the strongest shoot or the most vigorous to create the trunk. He brings it to the stake and with a good twine or tree tie, ties it to the stake. This will ultimately be the big trunk we normally associate with grape vines. Once you've selected the trunk and attached it, you can then prune every lateral branch off because you want all the nutrients to go to the main trunk and onto the leaf surface so it grows and gets stronger. After several years of growth, Kevin would pinch the main shoot, creating some lateral growth or shoots. Those shoots will come out the side. At that point you can put up a wire system or make a trellis system to train the shoots laterally, that will be the fruit wood. People tend to not prune grape vines enough thereby not getting a lot of grape production. All the energy is going into the vegetative growth when you want it to go into the fruit. When pruning for winter go back 4 to 8 buds on the laterals. Depending on the variety you can either spur prune or cane prune. Since there are a lot of steps to pruning grapes go online to your county extension agent or our web site has a link below. Once a grape vine is growing well it could produce grapes for many years. To keep them growing Kevin likes a balanced fertilizer, a triple 15 or 16 works well. If the plant is starting to grape out Kevin suggests using something with a low nitrogen to get the root system established before you push a lot of growth. If using a good slow release fertilizer you can put it on 3 times a year and it won't burn.

We next look at growing grapes on arbors and look at those requirements. When vines are large and there a many of them there is a lot of weight, thus a strong structure is needed. This arbor has 4 x 4's with 2 x 6's supporting it. It is a beautiful piece of woodworking but here the arbor is used more for ambience and aesthetics than for producing grapes. In a backyard environment like this the homeowner usually doesn't prune properly, not like in a commercial operation. The homeowner usually just cuts them back if they get too dense. The trunk will get large, even more so it you take off the sideshoots. If growing grapes in a lawn area be careful if using herbicides. Grapes are very sensitive to a number of herbicides, so keep lawn herbicides away from grape vines. When harvesting grapes off the vine, wait until they sugar up, so you can eat them. Many eat the grapes too soon. However if harvesting for jelly you might want to pick them on the tart side but for table use pick them when they taste the best, for juice let them go over a little, allow them to build up sugars so they will be even sweeter. Thank you Kevin for showing us about grapes-how to select varieties, plant them, train them, trellis them and grow them. We appreciate the lesson.

Adams Holland with Echo restaurant in Fresno today is with Jerri Banks a New York based, beverage designer, one of the worlds most famous. Jerri loves using grapes in wine. For this drink she also uses several other fresh ingredients, fresh lemon thyme and Cardamon pods. She crushes the grapes and the other ingredients, adds some simple syrup and some sliced lemon to the white wine. Jerri likes to add a few grapes as a garnish. It makes a delicious drink.

We've seen what grapes look like in a backyard setting now we look at a commercial setting. Jim Howard with the California Table Grape Commission provides us with some interesting grape facts. These grapes are Crimson Seedless, one of the finest varieties you'll find in local stores. These grapes need about another month before harvesting, at that point they'll turn uniformly red, sweet and delicious. When ready they'll be shipped to a store near you or to more than 75 countries worldwide. California produces 98% of the fresh grapes grown in the U.S. The average American eats more than 8 pounds of fresh grapes every year. That's a good thing because grapes are more than a delicious and wonderful snack, they're also packed with phytonutrients, compounds found throughout the grape but particularly in the skins of the grapes of all 3 colors. Research is finding that those compounds can fight diseases like cancer and heart disease. Red wine is considered beneficial to your health. Red wine is made from grapes and that is where those nutrients come from. A good eating tip- next time wash your grapes, dry them, put them in the freezer, when it's hot you'll have a delicious little bite sized popscicle. As well, grapes can be used in a variety of dishes and we next visit a wonderful chef.

Malachi Harland is the executive chef at the Chef's Table. Malachi loves using grapes because of their versatility. He uses them in dishes ranging from frosted grapes to a savory duck sauce both of which he will prepare today.

He starts with a Maple Leaf Duck breast. He has seasoned it lightly with salt and pepper and browned it, skin side down over a low flame for about 10 to 15 minutes, until it's cooked about medium rare. He adds a mixture of mushrooms-oyster mushrooms, beach mushrooms and baby shitake mushrooms. Any mushrooms you can buy from your local store would work. Saute them lightly in a little butter. He then prepares the sauce. Malachi uses port wine that has been reduced half way, then a little whole butter, some fresh ground black cracked pepper and some pickled grapes. Add about 1 ounce per serving of the port wine to the pan. Then use equal parts of pickled grapes. Once this comes to a simmer which happens quickly, add a teaspoon of butter, it blends beautifully and starts looking like a sauce, thickening up nicely. Add a little bit of fresh chives to the mushrooms. Spoon them on the plate, they will be on the bottom. Next add a little watercress to make a little salad, place them on top of the mushrooms, being careful not to bruise them. Let the duck cool for a good 5 minutes, allowing the juices inside to redistribute. Slice the duck, with the resulting pieces medium rare in the middle. Put the end pieces down first, put some grapes around, then drizzle on the sauce. It has a nice color from the port and it tastes great. It is simple to put together, delicious and fun to make.

Now that we have our main dish Malachi has a great, simple desert. He calls this frosted grapes. Here they serve them as a garnish for champaign and green grape creme brule or as an after dinner treat alongside coffee or something else before going home. First you take some egg whites, one egg white for a dozen grapes works well. Froth the egg white with a whisk, it takes about 20 seconds. Then take the grapes, any grape will do, coat each grape with the egg white froth, then drain them slightly, then roll them in sugar. It's like making snowballs. Let them air dry. The sugar will become slightly crunchy but is a nice contrast to the sweet center. It is nice and tasty yet still has that grape flavor.

Malachi thank you for showing us these recipes. They are delicious.


Kevin McNeely, Riverside Landscape and Nursery Supplies (559-275-1891)

Piccadilly Inn, Shaw Avenue

The Chef's Table

California Table Grape Commission

Fresno County Office of Tourism & Film

Grapes Varieties for the North

Pruning Grapes

Recipe: 'Sans'gria Blanco

Recipe: Maple Leaf Duck Breast

Recipe: Frosted Grapes

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