MY Venus Shows Off THE Venus

Friday, June 21, 2013

MY Venus with THE Venus
So? Guess which is which? Oh great, she's going to KILL me for that line. I kind of like this picture. I really do. I snapped it just the other day. Yes, that raving beauty to the right is MY Venus -- the Wife That Is (and will always be) MY Venus.

I think Facebook friend Dave Jessee, upon seeing this picture, gave it justice when he proceeded to comment the following: "Very nice!.....and the grapes aren't too bad either!"

He doesn't know it yet, but Dave Jessee earned all important "points" for that response. And when it comes to the Wife that is Venus, you can never have too many "points."

Venus Table Grapes
I write this post because MY Venus is holding up something rather important and amazing. I've been waiting for this moment for the better part of four years. No, the moment is not sex. Though, she did make me wait entirely too long for that. Never mind. Wait? What was I writing about again?

Oh yes, table grapes. Forgive me. My mind wandered. It's still wandering...

What MY Venus is holding top right -- and also pictured upper left -- is the Venus Table Grape. After four years of waiting, the Venus vine is finally producing the very first crop of juicy table grapes. This is a rather seminal moment. If you've ever grown seedless table grapes in California, the first rule of thumb is table grapes do not ripen in June.

Venus Table Grapes on the Vine
Most don't ripen in July. By August you have plenty of local table grapes. But JUNE? Yes, June, apparently. We have the evidence. The evidence is tasty. And there's more than one or two tasty table grape clusters hanging on the Venus vine. It's not a whopper 40 lb. harvest mind you, but that's fine. There's always next year.

There is some interesting history here. It's is the Wife who is Venus who bargained for the Venus Table Grape. It's why this rare vine can be found growing in the Bird Back 40. There aren't many of them here. This variety simply isn't grown much here. Why? Good question. Wish I had the answer. It might be the fact that there are so many delicious California selections already grown here, why do we need this one?

Lip-Smacking Venus Table Grapes Ready for Consumption
The Venus Table Grape harkens from the University of Arkansas, where it was developed and marketed as a seedless vine in 1977. How it got from Arkansas to California is a question that I cannot answer. But what I can tell you is this: When I first approached MY Venus to ask permission to plant table grapes in the Bird Back 40 some five or six years ago, she was initially skeptical. "Why grapes," she asked?

"Because I like them," I questioned in a somewhat timidly voice in response. "What varieties do you want," she continued. I handed her a list from Bay Laurel Nursery. And that is why MY Venus spotted THE Venus Table Grape. "As long as you plant the table grape named after me," she proclaimed, "I'm fine with it."

And that, my friends, is how THE Venus found a home in the Back 40 belonging to MY Venus.

Venus Cluster on the Vine
But it doesn't end there. Not even close. This was just the beginning.

The bare root season that preceded the spring season four years ago was a rather wet and miserable season indeed. It was cold. It was clammy. Short and sweet? It sucked. It wasn't anything like last year's bare root season, which offered mostly warm temperatures and sunny skies. Although bare root season is often the best time to plant things like fruit trees and vines, the bare root season that we got four years ago was an exception.

About half of the selections that I ordered from Bay Laurel Nursery died. From vines to trees -- fifty percent is not a good number. One of the first vines to die that year? You guessed it: the Venus Table Grape.

MY Venus was anything but pleased. She has the green thumb in the family. She thought mine had turned black -- as in black with death. I would have to wait another year before a replacement plant arrived from Bay Laurel so I could give it the "old college try" again. By this time the spot I'd set aside for THE Venus and other table grapes had already been taken up with replacement selections. I had to find another spot for it.

Venus Cluster
And so, across the yard it went. That small corner would suffice -- or so I thought. THE Venus didn't do much that first year. It grew about six inches. That ain't much in the world of table grapes. In fact, that's downright pathetic. Some first year vines will send out a stalk that can grow 10-12 feet! Six inches in comparison is fairly depressing.

The second year -- when I could expect the first fruits of my labor -- offered the same results. Oh -- it was a little better. This time THE Venus table grape vine produced TWO new vines. Each one grew about two feet in length and then stopped. Hey! That's better than the first year. But still not as nice as the other vines that were really starting to produce a boatload of table grapes.

What went wrong? I'm not sure. Perhaps the vine just didn't acclimate well to California? Perhaps it wasn't getting enough fertilizer, or perhaps I was under-fertilizing it? Was it the water? Too much? Too little? The weather? Too hot? Not muggy enough? I couldn't understand why eight other vines were growing like champions, while THE Venus, planted just mere feet away, wasn't doing as well.

Venus Vine Growth in 2013: BOOM!
Perhaps all it needed was time. This year? THE Venus sprang to life while the other table grape vines were still getting a winter's slumber. Suddenly, before I knew it, it had grown to the point where it was too late to install any sort of arbor for it. More importantly, it was fruiting for the very first time. And I didn't dare risk the chance of knocking first year fruit loose for arbor installation duties. That would have to wait. In the meantime? THE Venus vine that had grown a total of two and a half feet in the previous two years quickly grew over a six foot high fence and into the neighbor's yard.

MY Venus was pleased. She was even more pleased to taste the very first fruits of our labor. A garden is a labor of love after all. How does THE Venus taste? I'll admit, the brix content is nothing to write home about. It's not the sweetest grape in the world. However, it's got an intense taste just the same. As one writer puts it: "The Venus Table Grape is a cross between the European Vitis vinifera and the North American Vitis labrusca. It has the foxy flavor of a Concord, with some of the lusciousness of a Black Monukka."

I guess that means it's darn good. And wouldn't you know it? MY Venus would have to agree.

1 comment:

dave said...

I guess I should come around here more often!