Did you know you can eat Sea Grapes?
YES, that tropical plant with the purple grapes (or green if you see them only in the Winter while in FL) is a real fruit producing plant. The grapes are ripe enough to harvest in the late summer. Otherwise known as Cocoloba uvifera.
You can make Sea Grape Wine, Sea Grape Jelly, Sea Grape Jam, a syrup to drizzle over ice cream or simply pop them in your mouth as a snack.
While I have never eaten them, I hear they are a yummy treat but are pretty seedy so beware.
Please don’t pick them from the beaches because this plant is protected by state law and planted for beach erosion control. It’s even against the law in FL to pick them from private property without the owner’s permission. But, lucky you, you can grow them in your yard for your own enjoyment and consumption. The plants are not frost hardy so if you get frost in your area, you can pick up some already-made jelly at a variety of historical society offices and visitor centers throughout the state.
Ok, so if they’re really seedy is it worth making jelly, etc.? Why not?
It’s just like making any other jelly BUT, you need to soften the fruit and squeeze it through cheesecloth before you can add the other ingredients and pour the final product into canning jars.
Collect only the purple grapes, but remember, do not take them from public lands.
Wash and place in a pan. Cover with water and boil until soft. I’ve seen recipes for 30-90 minutes. Just watch your progress and add water if it evaporates too quickly in the boiling process.
Here’s the workout: Once the grapes are soft and you can mash them or they feel like they’ve loosened from the seed inside, put the grapes into a cheesecloth and squeeze into a bowl. Be patient, it may take a while to get a lot. Squeeze a small amount at a time to get all the juice available. You can also use a potato masher to squeeze out the juice. When done, toss out the seeds and skin. Measure the juice.
For every cup of juice, you’ll need to add 1 cup of sugar but not yet. Some people like to add a little water, perhaps to make the total an equal number of full cups. Ok, now put the juice into a clean pot and add the sugar. Boil briefly then ladle into prepared canning jars.
Put the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, let cool, chill and enjoy.
VARIATION: There’s another variation for those of you who like exact measurements and pectin. It also calls for butter. I’ve used jelly recipes with butter and didn’t like it. When chilling, the butter rises to the top.
8 cups sea grapes
4 cups water
5 cups sugar
1 box pectin
2 limes or 1/4 cup of juice
1/2 tsp butter
Put the grapes in a pot and cover with water. Boil for an hour or until the seeds separate from the skin. Drain and mash.
Squeeze through a cheesecloth. Add water for a total of 5 cups of juice.
Put the juice back into a pot, add pectin, butter, lime juice and boil.
Add sugar, bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute and pour into jars and put lids on the jars.
Put lidded jars into a hot water bath for 10 minutes, cool, chill, enjoy.
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That’s one recipe. For a sea grape wine recipe try this one: Sea Grape Wine. If you want jam, then once you separate the fruit from the seeds, puree the fruit and continue with the jelly recipe. The difference between jelly and jam is the liquid only (jelly) vs the presence of solid fruit (jam). And, for a simple fruit syrup, this one looks good: Fruit Syrup
One day I will make some but first I have to grow a sea grape tree. See my gardening blog: acoastalgardenersjournal.com for information on how to grow and care for a sea grape tree.