One popular feature of the Grape Discovery Center's Star Family Exhibit Room is the Comment and Question Wall where visitors can post their comments, memories, and questions about everything grape. It has already been filled once (we have those postings saved in scrapbooks), and is beginning to fill up again with more wonderful comments and questions.
What's the point of posting questions, though, if you don't get answers? So, to avoid disappointing our visitors who posted questions, we'll be answering some of these questions here. Let's go with the first one!
How long does it take to harvest the grapes? —Abbey T
Thank you, Abbey, for an excellent question, and a perfect place to start.
Grape harvest time is a big deal in the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt. Grapevines produce a single crop every year, and the growers take careful steps to ensure that each variety ripens fully. Once the grapes are ripe, harvest has to proceed quickly to ensure that all of the grapes can be picked while at their peak. Today, the vast majority of grapes are harvested by machine, but it wasn't always that way. In the early days, the local schools would close during harvest so that students could help in the vineyards bringing in the grapes in time. A legacy of this is the mascot for the North East, PA School District—they're known as the Grapepickers!
There are several varieties of grapes in the Grape Belt that are used for juice, jelly and wine production, and each variety ripens at a slightly different time. Some of the varieties that are used for wine ripen as early as late August, while other late-ripening wine varieties may be left to hang on the vine until the first week of November. So, from start to finish, our growers may be picking grapes for over two and a half months—around 11 weeks—with harvesters working around the clock!
Concord and Niagara, the major grape varieties used to make the juice and jelly that made this region famous, are harvested beginning in early September for Niagara, followed by Concord in the middle of September. Harvest for these varieties is wrapped up by the end of October.
Be sure to check out the Comment and Question Wall the next time you visit the Grape Discovery Center, and share your experience, memory or question for other visitors to see. Watch here for more Answers to Your Questions.