Wild Grape Vine Identification

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Learning to identify edible foods in the wild can help you stretch out a lean month. One prolific food in the middle and eastern portions of the United States is the wild grape, Vitis spp. Although they're often too sour to eat as a snack, wild grapes are a convenient source of fruit for juice and jelly.

Vine and Leaf Characteristics

  • Wild grape vines, in general, are clinging, trailing vines with tendrils that extend from the vine right across from a leaf. The leaves have relatively jagged margins, though they can be either heart- or maple-leaf shaped. The leaves are also alternate: one leaf will appear higher or lower on the opposite side of the vine from another leaf, instead of directly opposite it.

Fruit and Bark

  • The grapes themselves are dark purple and round, and they contain multiple seeds. One common description states that the bark on the stems of the vine comes off "in strips."

Warning

  • Poisonous moonseed looks very similar to wild grape, except for its smooth-edged leaves and the fact that the fruit contains only one seed that's shaped like a crescent. Before you go foraging, ask your county or university agricultural office if they have samples or pictures of both local wild grapes and poisonous lookalikes -- you must be able to positively identify edible and non-edible plants to avoid getting sick.

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