When you think of wine, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Did you say grapes? Well, of course you did. After all, that’s what wine is made from, right? Well, you’re partially right. Those who make wine have traditionally made it from grapes. But not all wine comes from grapes. In truth, wine can be made from just about any kind of fruit, vegetable, or herb you can imagine. Growing grapes is a luxury that not everyone can afford. And purchasing expensive wines made from the finest grapes grown in France or California is outside many of our budgets. So if those of us on the bottom half of the wealth scale want wine, we have to get creative and make it out of whatever is growing in our gardens, orchards, or lawns.
In her wonderful book, Drink the Harvest, authors Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, further clarify this concept.
With its origins lost in the furthest reaches of time, winemaking has always tapped into local plant life. People have made wine from bountiful harvests of dates, rice, palm, bananas, yucca, potatoes, plums, pomegranates, and other staple crops. Gardeners and cooks can use what they grow to make the leap into fermented beverage production, turning their harvest into fresh new wines that will age beautifully in the pantry.
So how about it, fellow gardeners? If you’ve ever thought about making your own wine, but can’t afford to purchase or grow grapes, then why not try to make wine from what’s growing in your very own garden? How about a tomato wine? Why not a carrot wine? Maybe even a pumpkin wine? You’ve got a bumper crop out in your yard or in your kitchen. You’ve eaten fresh as much as you can eat, and you’ve given away as much as you can give. If you don’t do something with what you have left, it will rot and go to waste. So why not try turning it into wine? As the old commercial used to say, try it; you’ll like it!
Several years ago, my young niece and I were helping my father with my parents’ vegetable garden. On more than one occasion, my niece kept asking, “Grandpa, will you wash my hands?” Now traditionally, the washing of hands is performed after the work is finished. But it soon became obvious that my niece did not like dirt clinging to her hands for any length of time. She wanted to help in the garden, but did not like getting dirty.
With apologies to my niece, it just doesn’t work that way. Being a gardener is a lot like being a gossip columnist, because both have to wallow in the dirt if they want to do their job. To be a successful gossip columnist he or she must wallow in figurative dirt – lies, smut, scuttlebutt, innuendo, etc. To be a successful gardener you must wallow in the real thing, although I prefer the word soil. There are no two ways about it. Gardening gets you dirty – and sweaty. If you want to grow vegetables, flowers, or mushrooms, at some point in the process, you are going to have to sink your hands into the soil, and some of that soil is going to stick to your hands. To be sure, you can wear gardening gloves, but they will not completely keep your hands completely dirt-free. Not only that, but your clothes and shoes are also going to get dirty. And you’re going to sweat with a capital S! We’re not talking wisps of perspiration here. We’re talking great drops of moisture dripping off of your forehead and careening off of your nose!
If you’re willing to accept dirt, sweat, and stink, then welcome to the club! It’s plain to see that you like fresh air and sunshine, and the thought of remnants of Mother Earth sticking to your hands and clothes does not deter you from your desire to grow bumper crops of delicious, wholesome, fresh vegetables or beautiful flowers. On the other hand, if the merest thought of a speck of soil contaminating your digits makes you scream with horror, then may I suggest that you try another hobby? Perhaps stamp collecting is more your speed.