Wild Grapes and Wildlife: January Update

Newly bottled  Pandora Pyment

Newly bottled
Pandora Pyment

Eric and I have been experimenting with mead-making for about a year now. Our first two batches were encouraging, so we decided to use these grapes to make a “Pyment” or mead/wine hybrid.

We meticulously separated the grape clusters and then squeezed over 3 quarts of juice out of the grapes. We added wildflower honey from a local apiary and some champagne yeast and hoped for the best. Our primary fermentation went well as did the second phase. We recently bottled the pyment, and I added the labels just a couple of days ago.

The moth depicted on the label is the adult stage of the species of caterpillar pictured below. We named our drink “Pandora Pyment” in honor of the spectacular bug that we found on the grape vines. Now we just have to wait 4-6 more months before the pyment is finished and ready to taste!


Grapes on the vines

Mid September is a perfect time to find wild grapes ripening on the vines. As Aesop’s fables indicate, the best ones are just out of reach!

After breakfast, Eric and I took a stroll down a neighboring hillside where wild grapes grow at the edge of the woods. Eric chuckled at me as I optimistically took along a three gallon bucket.

The grape vines at the top of the hill had no fruit so we continued on down the slope which ends with a lake at the bottom. Soon we started to find bunches of grapes on the vines and look what else we found!

Eumorpha pandorus caterpillar

This amazing bug will transform into a beautiful green and brown pandora sphinx moth.

This enormous brown caterpillar with white spots is the larvae of Eumorpha pandorus, the pandora sphinx moth. Grape vines are the favorite food of this creature. We marveled and took photos.

Grapes in Bucket

Our morning walk rewarded us with more than exercise!
Wild grapes are among the richest flavors
to savor in early Fall.

As we continued on our foraging we found more and choicer grape clusters the further downhill we went. By the time we got to the water’s edge we had a nearly full bucket. It pays to be optimistic! We will process the fruit into something delicious and revel in the rich autumn flavor of wild grapes.