An Act of Valor
Life is hard on the frozen prairies. Though not nearly as hard today as it used to be, of course. While we have furnaces, insulated housing and warm clothing to protect us from the cold nothing much has changed for the plants in our environments. What was a hard winter 100 years ago is still just as hard today. This can really limit what kind of food can be grown in Manitoba. In the summer fruit bearing plants are uncommon enough, but in winter there is nothing producing at all.
It is because of these factors that our customers are often shocked to see grapes in our stock selection. Yes indeed there are some grapes can survive in frozen Manitoba and produce a bountiful crop while they are at it.
Granted all of these grapes do require shelter and protection from the vicious arctic winds. Even with the best shelter possible there are some varieties that simply don’t stand a chance. Of the several selections we have tested and tried, I have never seen a grape that withstood the abuse of winter better than the Valiant Grape. The name is truly fitting.
Developed at South Dakota State University this grape is a prairie success. Like a true vine it needs a support of some kind to climb up on and could grow as large as 20’ high and wide. Producing dark blue grapes about a half inch wide the fruit is smaller than your average table grapes, but undeniably tasty. Tangy blue skin covers sweet green flesh inside. The grapes hold 4-5 seeds that are small enough to eat or easy enough to spit out. They are grown in clusters of up to 20 and a mature vine can produce up to 40 pounds of fruit a year. It can be used in jams, jellies, baking and wine making.
While Valiant is the most resilient it is the Somerset grape that takes first place in flavour. Larger, sweeter and seedless with pink over white skin it is the best table grape for Manitoba. A close second is the Brianna Grape. It is the best white grape for Manitoba with large fruit and excellent flavor. However they will require the right location and dedicated care to raise them up safely in our harsh winters. All Grapes require a full sun location with good drainage, consistent watering, and prefer a slightly acidic soil. It is not uncommon for young vines or even mature ones to have tip dieback in hard winters. It is recommended to free young vines from the trellis and lay them flat on the ground for their early winters. The snow cover will help protect them from frost damage. If there is winter dieback a good pruning will help revive the vine. Plus fruit is produced on the fresh growth so regular pruning is quite beneficial.