Petite Jewel Grapes [Critters 3 : Gardener 1]

Petite Jewel Grapes [Critters 3 : Gardener 1]

In 2015, an older gentleman from the North San Diego CRFG chapter brought a variety of grapevine to share that I had not heard of. He claimed it was the best grape variety he was growing in his coastal location. He sounded familiar with all the other varieties I was growing or had tried. Turns out, he was right about it being the best grape and the raccoons, opossums, birds, squirrels, and rats all totally agree.

I planted the cutting in 2015 and I was really surprised it fruited one cluster of grapes the following year. None of the other grapes varieties I have grown have fruited that quickly from a scion. The tiny red berries were delicious. However, it is very frustrating to grow. I have lost most, if not all, of the Petite Jewel grapes to thieves of one kind or another over the past 3 summers. The thieves take them when the grapes are way under-ripe, with only a slight blush. While they taste okay at the light pink stage, if left until fully red, they are excellent. My daughter calls them ‘fruity flavored boba.’ I would compare the flavor to Flame or Ruby grapes, but without the hassle of trying to prevent or treat powdery mildew.

What ate all my grapes? and how to protect them
These were covered until moments ago, otherwise, I would not have gotten any.

I do bag all the clusters in organza or paper bags every year, as soon as I notice they are changing color from green to red. But this is the only variety I grow that the bags are consistently chewed through or pulled off and left empty on the ground.

This year, I bagged them really early, in April around the time I was thinning out the Jupiter and Neptune grape clusters. I also moved my fake owl around on a weekly basis. It probably didn’t hurt that Corgie likes to go after squirrels. I am not sure if it was the timing that made a difference, the owl, or the dog, but I am really happy that we got to enjoy all the grapes this summer!

I used to grow one of the parents of this grape, Canadice, which is a very good grape for maritime locations, but in my opinion, Petite Jewel is superior in flavor. Canadice sometimes was eaten by the birds, but I could get away without bagging them most years and still get plenty to harvest. That tells me they agree that Petite Jewel is excellent.

The nerdy details about Petite Jewel:

Petite Jewel is a complex hybrid grape, consisting of Vitis riparia, Vitis labrusca, and Vitis vinifera developed by the renowned grape breeder Elmer Swenson in Wisconsin. It was originally known by its field number, E.S. 3-20-36. It is seedless, very sweet, and has a fruity strawberry flavor. The berries are tiny, like the size of a ‘champagne’ grape or a petite pea so it would probably never be considered as a commercial variety. Even though it was bred to withstand the harsh winter of USDA zone 5 or 6, it seems to like zone 10b just fine, too. It has moderate vigor and very good disease resistance to powdery mildew.

organza bag on grapes to keep out rats and other critters. How to keep things from eating my grapes
Petite Jewell E.S. 3-20-36 grapes are almost ripe and protected in an organza netted pouch.

Hopefully, I will have additional success keeping the wildlife out of my Petite Jewel grapes in future years, too. Next in the grape ripening season for us is Jupiter and then Neptune and Concord. The raccoons really like the Concord. If you have had trouble with wildlife stealing your fruit, what have you done to combat them? I am always looking for new ideas so please leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Happy Gardening!

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