“Paul McLane gave the L.E. Cooke Co a grapevine he grew from his grandmother’s seedling in Chico, California . . .”
I’m a sucker for a vegetable or fruit variety with a background story. With Blueberry grapes, both the variety and my own vines come with stories.
To continue about the variety: McLane’s grapevine that came from his grandmother “produced a seedless Concord-like grape with a unique blueberry flavor. Thus it was named Blueberry Grape.” So wrote the late owner of L.E. Cooke, Robert Ludekens, in 2013.
Also in 2013, I received cuttings of Blueberry grape from a friend and stuck the cuttings straight into the dirt below my chainlink fence, where they rooted and grew into vines that continue happily today, ten years later.
The Blueberry grape
Blueberry grapes have always been one of our kids’ favorite varieties among the handful that we grow.
They are small to medium sized and perfectly spherical.
Inside their purple skin they usually don’t even have a trace of a seed.
They are always firm and never mushy, but they are never crunchy firm like some varieties.
They can be picked in August, but if left to ripen into September their color darkens and their flavor gets richer and more intense. The flavor is always more complex compared to a simply sweet variety like Flame.
Do they really taste like blueberries?
Last week, I picked some late blueberries from our bushes, ate them, and then ate some Blueberry grapes.
No, not to me. The blueberries tasted like blueberries and the Blueberry grapes tasted like grapes. They Blueberry grapes just look a lot like blueberries, for a grape.
The Blueberry grapevine
My Blueberry grapevines grow vigorously and fruit prolifically. The leaves are less lobed than some other grape varieties.
I have always spur pruned my Blueberry grapevines, back to two or three buds per spur, and this has resulted in good grape production.
It started with Robin
I had been growing my Blueberry grapevines for a few years when I became curious to learn more about the variety. A web search took me to an L.E. Cooke webpage that included a testimonial letter about the variety from a grower down in San Diego:
“We really adore this grape. Its taste and texture so closely resemble a blueberry, one almost can forget it really is a grape . . . It is sweet but rich, with a surprising burst of blueberry flavor and bite, and never mushy . . . In addition to its excellent taste, the big leaves are extremely ornamental, turning bright red in winter, and lingering on the vine through December in our region.”
Then it was signed by Robin Rivet.
Wait, I know Robin.
The next time I saw her I mentioned running into her testimonial letter. “I grow some Blueberry grapevines and like them too,” I told her. “I grew them from cuttings I got from Frank.”
“Frank started his vines from cuttings he got from me!” she said.
It’s wild how plants make their way around.
Where to get a Blueberry grapevine?
If you’re interested in tasting this variety, I have no idea where to send you. I know of no farmers growing this variety. But if you’re interested in growing a Blueberry grapevine, I have two ideas.
Ask your local nursery to order a plant from Dave Wilson Nursery. Sadly, L.E. Cooke closed its nursery business a few years ago, but Dave Wilson might be propagating Blueberry grape plants now as they took over some of the unique varieties once grown by L.E. Cooke.
Or join a local chapter of California Rare Fruit Growers and seek a cutting of Blueberry at this winter’s scion exchange. Lots of CRFG members have this variety. I will make cuttings of my own Blueberry grapevines available at the scion exchange of the North County San Diego chapter in January.
I’ve seen Blueberry grape plants being sold online, but I don’t know how trustworthy these sources are or whether they’re selling the real Blueberry variety profiled here.
More posts on grapes:
How can you help me continue writing Yard Posts?
All of my Yard Posts are listed HERE