Sea Grapes: Part I
The seagrape tree (Coccoloba uviferai) is an old Florida favorite. It’s so versatile. They can grow huge and make an awesome noise barrier or can be kept small as a hedge. My mom has pruned hers into a gorgeous shade tree (in the Caribbean). It survived the ferocious hurricane Ivan when very few other trees on the island did.
Seagrape trees are native to Florida and grow well in the warmer parts. Freezing temperatures can kill young plants that haven’t been established. Older, larger plants would fare better in a serious Florida freeze. They also grow in many other parts of the world. My son loves the seagrape tree and says it’s one of his favorites. Whenever we see one, he’ll usually break off a leaf and just carry it around with him. New trees can easily be started by cuttings from mature trees.
We recently purchased two of our own trees from Riverland, our favorite local nursery. We planted them in a spot along our riverbank where we desperately need shade. They were inexpensive… $8 for a good-sized little tree. We hope that we get grapes from them, but only the female seagrape plant will produce grapes. We’re not sure if we have male or female trees because it’s too early to tell. The male tree will show dead flower stalks.
My great-grandmother used to make a seagrape jelly that everyone in the family went crazy over. Her recipe has been lost or I would share it. However, I have seen quite a few published recipes that look great. If I had enough seagrapes, I would try the recipe from the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange Club because they are known to share their family recipes. They have an easy seagrape marmalade recipe in their cookbook of favorite tropical recipes. I didn’t get permission from them to reproduce the recipe, so you’ll have to buy the cookbook ($25). However, here’s a link to a recipe from another blog. The author gives a family recipe for seagrapes that was passed down in her family… click here. This recipe is almost identical to the Caloosa cookbook recipe.
Sanibel Island in Ft. Myers, Florida has honeybees that make the most sumptuous seagrape honey. It’s harvested and sold by Curtis Honey. I buy it by the gallon. (They sell mangrove honey too). Some years have good seagrape honey harvests and other years hardly have any. I never waste a drop.
Come grow with us!