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.
The interest manifested at the present time in grape culture in this country is rapidly on the increase, and from evidences that I have received this last fall, I think I can safely say, that we are hereafter to be a great grape-growing people, rivaling the best wine producing districts of the old world.
The best grape-growing regions for producing fruit for market, I consider to be a belt of country, about 150 miles broad, commencing in about the latitude of Philadelphia, and extending from 60 to 100 miles north of the city of New York. If we go further south, the fruit ripens too early to sell well in our large cities, as the month of September is quite as early as it should be sent to market.
I may, perhaps, have placed my limits somewhat too far north, as the southern border of the belt of country above alluded to, for some varieties of grapes; but for the production of the Isabella, Catawba, Delaware, Rebecca, Diana, Hartford Prolific, Concord, and some other standard varieties, I think that my limits are not far from right.
In latitudes north of the aforesaid limits, up to, and even in the Canadas, good grapes are generally produced, of certain varieties; but the seasons are too uncertain - spring and fall - to insure the greatest degree of success.
The old standard varieties, Isabella and Catawba, do not fully ripen more than one season in ten in all New England, Central and Northern New York, and in the same latitudes at the West. In some parts of Central and Western New York, where the soil is light and warm, grapes ripen that utterly fail in the higher and more clayey districts. In Monroe county and vicinity, they generally mature about ten days before the same varieties do in Oneida county, and in most of the state, lying south of Rochester, down to the Pennsylvania line, running east to Hudson River.
In consequence of this difference in the soil, the grape growers of Rochester and vicinity have given publicity to many statements, in regard to the ripening of grapes, which have been taken by the public as applying to all sections of country in the same latitude, while they should be considered as local, to a great extent, in their reliability.
The following are some of the principal varieties that generally mature in all sections of this State: Logan, Hartford Prolific, Concord, Delaware, Rebecca, Child's Superb, and Northern Muscadine, with several kinds of less reputation. The Diana, one of our best varieties, does not generally ripen in Central New York.
In regard to the relative merits of the quality of fruit, and time of maturing of the above-named varieties, I will make a few remarks. The Logan and Hartford Prolific ripen about a week before the Delaware, Concord, and Rebecca. They are a good early grape; but the fruit of the Hartford Prolific is liable to fall off, if left upon the vines till fully matured, which is also the fault of the Northern Muscadine in a very great degree.
The Concord ripens in Central New York, from September 20th to October, 1st, according to situations. If a vine be grown upon the south or east side of a building, the fruit will ripen a week earlier than that grown in vineyards, with no protection on the north or west. This is the case with most other varieties. The fruit of the Concord is considered here to be much superior to the Logan and Hartford Prolific, more prolific than either, but not quite so early.
The Delaware, though excellent in quality, and very prolific when vines have sufficient age, yet it is not as popular in this section of the State as it might be in other places. Good judges of the fruit place the Diana ahead of it when fully ripe; but a serious fault with the latter is, that the clusters ripen very unevenly, there being, frequently, green grapes and ripe ones upon the same bunches, and in the same clusters. The Delaware will continue in good repute, and become one of our best sorts, but it is far from being as valuable as some dealers in it have endeavored to make the public believe. The Diana is a larger grape than the Delaware, and when it matures fully, it may well place the Delaware, all things considered, in the back ground.
It has been said, through the press, that the Delaware ripens from one to two weeks before the Concord; but I have failed to see this verified in this, Oneida, county. The Delaware may, perhaps, ripen a few days earlier than the Concord in some places; but it can not be said of it, in truth, that it uniformly ripens even a week earlier.
The beautiful Rebecca is growing in favor every day; it ripens with me about the same time as the Delaware and the Concord; and it has the merit of retaining the fruit upon the vines without a single grape dropping off, till very late in the season. Its only fault is, that it does not bear so profusely as some other varieties; but it greatly improves in that respect as it acquires age.
I may justly include Quids' Superb in the list of early varieties, that are safe to grow in this latitude. Mr. Childs, in whose garden this valuable grape originated, resides in Utica, and I learn that the propagation of it, and its sale, have been intrusted wholly to his gardener, who, I fear, if report be true, has so mixed it up with the White Sweetwater, that many dealers in grape vines have received this latter variety from him, instead of the genuine Childs' Superb, which is to be regretted, on account of the bad repute this excellent grape will fall into by those who receive the Sweetwater in its stead. It sold, I believe, originally for about $5 per vine, and is now worth $3, or $36 per dozen, which price I myself have lately paid, while I see that some horticulturists advertise it at fifty cents ! It is the spurious vine, of course. The consequence of this affair is, that we see "Childs' Superb" offered by horticulturists for sale at low prices, when not one in ten has the genuine grape on his premises; and purchasers received the White Sweetwater, which is a very inferior grape.
I have paid lately at the rate of $36 per dozen for some of the real Childs' Superb; and I advise all persons to beware of buying at lower prices at present, as the true vines can not be bought at less, and some of our largest horticultural dealers have offered that price for the genuine article, during the last fall, without being able to obtain it.
The Northern Muscadine is a seedling grape, produced by the Shakers of Lebanon, N. Y. It ripens from twelve to fifteen days before the Isabella, and produces a mature crop generally in all sections of this State. It is valuable only as an early variety in the central and northern parts of the State; and the fruit must be eaten as soon as matured, or it will all be found upon the ground.
I have given but a very partial and imperfect description of the four varieties of grapes, which I have here mentioned, as my article was not commenced with the design to say much on that point; but I hope to be able hereafter to discuss the subject of grape growing more in detail in the Horticulturist.
[The limits assigned by Mr. Minor to the grape for market purposes differs materially from our own, as we understand him; but we are always glad to put upon record the opinions and experience of those interested in grape culture. We do not understand how it can be said that Childs' Superb generally matures in all sections of New York; it is too soon to predicate so much of it, for comparatively few have got it, and still fewer have fruited it; besides, its identity is not yet settled. We must have the results of a more extended experience before we can speak thus positively of any new grape. Mr. Minor probably meant to have said, that in his opinion it will mature in all sections of the states; but to say that it doe* mature is exceptionable. One of our neighbors, formerly of Utica, has a couple of vines from the original, and we shall thus have an opportunity of learning something about its identity. If Mr. Childs's gardener has got it so badly mixed up with the Sweetwater as is supposed, then neither Mr. Minor nor any other purchaser can know that he has got genuine vines, and the sale of it ought to be stopped at once, and till this confusion can be reduced to order;, for three dollars are rather too much to pay for a White Sweetwater. The parties directly interested owe it to themselves at least to explain this matter.
Probably Mr. Heffron, who is on the spot, can throw some light on the subject. The Delaware, in view of its great value to all sections, must for the present remain at the head of our native grapes. In regard to its ripening, the general experience is, that it usually ripens about a week before the Concord; but, of course, the period will vary a little according to circumstances. No one should claim strict uniformity in such matters; for the very nature of the case precludes it. Those who find the fruit of the Northern Muscadine on the ground will find it where it ought to be. - Ed].