The Grapevines of Newark

by Charles McGrath

Click on photo to enlarge:

Back in the 1930-40's there were many grape vines introduced into Newark. Many Italians planted them in their backyards. I think that they were used as much for nostalgia and shade than for the fruit. While its true that some people made their own wine usually the grapes were bought from commercial sources.

To most of us grapes vines seemed different if not foreign. But they have been here a long time. Remember Lief Ericson called our country Vineland. As a matter of fact in the 19th Century we saved the vineyards of Europe with our grape vines. A fungus and Phylloxera (an aphid) almost destroyed the grape and wine industries in Germany, France and Italy. Guess what? We saved those guys even back then. Their vines were saved by grafting European buds to rootstocks of resistant vines native to America. So our vines provided a host for their plants. Interesting?

Today many of those old vines have disappeared, as did the ones who tended them. Some of the new immigrants like the Portuguese are growing them. My wife even got me to build a small vineyard for her. I guess it's the Italian in her genes. See the above photo.

Not long ago I passed my grandmother's house Down Neck at 21 Vincent Street. Much to my surprise what was growing in the backyard? A grape vine!


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