Wednesday, May 26, 2010

oregon grapes- making juice

Here on the homestead we have an Oregon grape bush/tree thing. For the first time I harvested them for our personal use. To be honest, I had no idea they were even edible until a couple years ago. In fact, few people know that they are edible because of their holly like appearance.

Most American herbalists rank the Oregon grape as one among the most outstanding and exceptional Native American herbs available today. They also believe that the shrub is in fact one of the best herbs available today, which can effectively stimulate liver activity and the secretion of bile. There are several reasons for this belief. For one, the Oregon grape boasts of a bright yellow root, which is high in the alkaloid berberine, which is in turn an important constituent of other similarly powerful healing plants like for example, goldenseal. The root is also said to have a warm and drying influence. The Oregon grape can stimulate weakened livers, and at the same time dramatically alleviate liver-induced symptoms such as headaches, poor digestion, and toxic blood... Herbalists of today prefer to use the Oregon grape to cleanse the liver, the spleen and in some cases the blood too. However, an individual who consumes too much rich food, or who overeats regularly and who therefore has an overactive liver must not use Oregon grape, because of its action on the liver.

Oregon grape is generally prepared in an easy infusion, using 1/2 ounce of dried Oregon grape root to one quart of water. The infusion can usually be taken a cup at a time, thrice a day until relief is obtained. Oregon grape is often used in herbal formulas, too. Since the berries of the Oregon grape have been found to possess a cooling effect, they are used to break fevers. For more information on medicinal uses click here.
 The Oregon grape  is quite a sour little berry so you don't really want to eat a handful of them unless you happen to have scurvy as the berries have a  lot of vitamin c in them.  They also have from 1 to 4 seeds in each tiny "grape"   so there isn't much meat to them. The good thing is that when prepared they make a fair replacement in all grape recipes from jams and jellies to wine, and juice.

Yesterday I picked our "grapes" from the bush. Because it is so holly like, the leaves on the plant will prick you  and may also cause a slight allergic reaction when bare skin rubs on the plants.  Wear gloves and long sleeves. Once the  ripe berries are picked wash and remove stems, bugs and any non ripe berries.The berries  also have a dusty blue coating on them,when you pick them it sort of rubs off and they become a purple/blue color.

To make the juice I simply put 2-3 cups of grapes  in  sterilized jars, add a cup of sugar and fill  with hot water. Next cap and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Allow the juice to age for two months or more. When ready to use, reconstitute and add sugar according to your taste.

I processed twelve quarts of juice yesterday from one plant, not bad for something  we didn't know was edible. This fall I will likely sacrifice one of the roots for medicinal uses.


  1. In my Horticulture Plant Identification class this was known as Mahonia aquafolium. In my Botony Flora of the Pacific Northwest it was Berberis aquafolium.
    And you'd better not get the two taxonomy mixed up!
    It is known as Mahonia in the plant trade. But in the Botanical circles, including the Departement of Forestry, it is Berberis. Go figure.

  2. I noticed that when i first started trying to figure out what the plant was,,, kinda odd

  3. Once upon a time I had a couple of small Oregon grape plants in my garden, at the old place. I would love to have a row of them in my berry garden now for wine making! Do they root and grow from cuttings? I have access to a few bushes.

  4. I am not sure about the cutting method but in this web site it said something about taking root crown from a plant. I am tired right now so i dont remember if by doing so you actually sacrifice the original plant or what.. maybe Susan knows lol..

  5. When you can in your water bath, do have a rack that fits on the bottom of it, or do you just set them in?

  6. I usually just set them in when i water bath since I use a wash tub for most water bath canning instead of an actual stock pot or canning kettle. i have never had any break. As you can see it is over wood heat.

  7. Judith at The Keep
    I love to pick the berries and watch my fingers turn an indigo colour. Boil up berries with a few strips of lemon rind and sugar to balance the tart taste of the berries and quarter cup of water per cup of berries. Bring to boil. Simmer for 20-30mins until thickens. Place in sterilised jars and seal. Use in muffins, cakes, slices and in sauces for fish and chicken.
    Freeze some of the grape mixture to add to ice cream and desserts.

  8. OOPS! Forget to tell readers to remove lemon skin and to sieve mixture to remove seeds before storing.