This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
In answer to your inquiry, relative to the Concord Grape, I would state that it is not in my collection, consequently can not give you the result of my experience in its cultivation. When exhibited, it has passed under my notice for two or three seasons; the past autumn being the only year in which the fruit has been tested by me.
The fruit is handsome, some bunches being quite large, Grapes very black, covered with a rich bloom and measuring from two to three inches in circumference. Where the Isabella will not ripen, it promises to be valuable, as it matures its fruit in less time. The Diana also does this, Which is to be preferred, must be decided by individual taste. The Concord has a decided fox-flavor. The Diana, like the Catawba, has less. In Massachusetts the Catawba rarely will mature its fruit and then only in favored positions. The Isabella under proper cultivation and not in a wet cold soil, will always ripen its fruit When neglected and suffered to be overloaded wth fruit, it can not fully do this. The Diana will ripen the crop in unfavorable positions and under circumstance when the Isabella will not. For Massachusetts, I consider the Diana and Isabella the best in flavor - the Concord the handsomest and the largest Grape and bunch, but inferior in flavor to the two previously named. Where the Catawba will ripen, (and this Grape requires fifteen days longer season than the Isabella,) many will prefer it to the Isabella and it should head the list, as being the most desirable.
Under this climate, however, it may be desirable to prolong the Grape seasonby planting the kinds that mature both early and late. It may be assumed that the Diana under the beet circumstances and best cultivation will mature its fruit in four months and fifteen days; the Concord in the same time; the Isabella in five months; the Catawba in five months and fifteen days.
The all important consideration in the culture of the Grape in the open air, in this country' is severe pruning out of the bunches as soon as formed. Two, three, and four bunches will usually appear on a shoot; cut away all but the best one on each shoot Then you will ripen the fruit rich in flavor, in Massachusetts, every year, as surely as the Apple crop.
Mr. Amos W. STETSON; of Braintree, has several hardy Grapes of fine promise, one in particular, quite early. Vines of this, it is presumed, will soon be offered for sale. It closely resembles the Isabella, I have seen specimens of this fruit fully colored when the Isabella had just began. J. Fisk Allen. - December 26th, 1854, Salem, Mass.
It gives us pleasure to make public Mr. Allen's opinion of the Concord, as he is eminently qualified to judge correctly of the quality and value of Grapes. It will be seen that Mr. Allen's estimate very nearly corresponds with ours. We said that it would be two weeks earlier than Isabella, Mr. Allen says fifteen days; we stated that it was more foxy than Isabella, Mr. Allen says it has "a decided fox flavor." That the Diana, which ripens at same time, is greatly superior to the Concord as a table Grape, no one we think will deny, but it is neither so large nor so prolific.
A valued correspondent writes: "If I were confined to but one grapevine, it would certainly be the Concord".
Needs no comment. When well cultivated in our latitude, is a first-rate grape [we do not agree - Ed.] ; and for market for the masses, will hold the lead for the present [Then the masses don't discriminate. - Ed.] When grown here, it is far superior to those grown in its original place, or anywhere in the North.
Mr. Samuel Miller suggests that the only way to reconcile conflicting opinions regarding the Concord Grape, is to suppose there are two kinds called by that name. It is possible; and those having information on the subject will do a public favor by communicating the same.
A noble grape; hardy, vigorous, and productive. This grape must certainly be finer with us than at the north.
Hardy and productive, fruit large, oval, black, sweetish, though pungent and musky, improving with the age of the vine. Ripens at Washington in the latter part of August; and is a fair table grape, but more desirable for winemaking." Concord wine we have never tasted, but regard the Concord decidedly the best native grape at present for the purposes of general cultivation.
Among all the varieties that come to our market the Concord is the most popular. Although some speak of it lightly, others with contempt, and some say they pity the taste of those who prefer it to others, yet it is an undeniable fact that it is the grape for the million, and the great mass of consumers buy it in preference to any other.
There are some influences brought to bear on this variety that are worth noting. One is, that it is among the first arrivals, and compares favorably with any of them for quality, and it is received in such quantities that it sells so low that all can buy them. It is a very tender grape and soon spoils, consequently it is often forced on the buyers by accepting low offers in order to dispose of them before they spoil.
There is another point to which I will call your attention: - Being hardy, it can be grown in almost any section of the country, and by most any one - consequently every year new vineyards are brought into bearing, and inexperienced cultivators put their crops on the market in crude style of packages, and without due selection or proper packing. Thus the market is constantly supplied with grapes that must be sold quickly, and at prices made by the buyer, not the seller, for it is only the choice fruits that he can really hold to secure their value, and the value of this is materially affected by this mass of common quality of fruits. Another point is, that on account of its tenderness, the heat soon spoils it, when it has been handled carelessly; in many instances the juice runs from them in streams on arrival, and if not sold the same day will spoil before the next.
Isabella - The Isabella is a good grape, and takes the place of the Concord among those who wish a cheap black grape, but it is singular how the demand for this variety will stop all at once, and while there is plenty of them in the market. In order to explain the cause of this stoppage, I would state that among the buyers of these black grapes are a large number of German grocers, Italians who keep stands on the sidewalks, and deal largely in these varieties because they are cheap; also licensed venders, or peddlers, as they are commonly called, who buy them by the load, and drive through the city, and sell them to whom they can. These parties supply all the demand by the poorer class of citizens, until they seem to exhaust the consumers appetites for grapes, or in other words, are tired of them; consequently this large class of buyers cease to purchase them, and the Catawba having arrived, the better class of consumers take hold of them, and the demand for Isabellas virtually comes to an end, with a few exceptions of out-of-town buyers who sell them to a limited extent.