Grape Juice

Amy Rothenberg ND
4 min readSep 8

We drive part way to Boston before answering a call that in fact, they do not have a bed for me. When we return home to our bonus day, we think together, what shall we do? We harvest our overflowing patch of tomatoes and Paul makes his famous slow-cooked-with herbs-and-then-drenched-in-olive oil-jarred-tomatoes.

And then, as the heat drains from the day, we harvest the lion’s share of our concord grapes. Planting grape vines is one of our pandemic projects. I mail order the rooty starts on a bit of a whim. When I open the box, the unimpressive dried out roots are wrinkled and dusty, not giving any hint at the miracle plants they are. Nonetheless, we plant as directed. A year later Paul designs a simple but gorgeous arbor for the newest members of our ever-expanding little fruit operation here on Middle Street.

Each of the first two years we cut back any inkling of an idea of grapes. Instead, we invite the plants to pull all their energies into their roots. And just like raising kids or nurturing a friendship, or building a career, or working a hobby, we focus on the important stuff, those basics that build a good foundation. For grapes, this is about root building, compost fertilizing, watering, and offering sturdy structure for climbing.

This year we let the grapes grow, the vines winding their way up and around the wire fencing as they vie for sunshine and space, a kind of manifest destiny across yards and yards of twiny cord. The weather also cooperated, especially in these last weeks, while we have mostly been away, the dry and warm spell is just what the grapes need to ripen up into a deep indigo, use the inside their skins chemical reactions to set their inherent sweetness, all the while not succumbing to mold.

When you have been married as long as we have, it’s not often you have brand new experiences together. From standing between the rows, lifting the broad shady leaves to reveal the literal treasure trove of bunches, like caricatures of grape clusters, to carefully snipping the bundles and gently piling into an oversized woven basket, to inhaling the singular concord grape smell that might sneak up behind you on a hike this time of year, to standing together at the kitchen sink to destem and rinse these deep cobalt wonders, we thoroughly enjoy our labor of love.

Amy Rothenberg ND

American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s 2017 Physician of the Year. Teacher, writer and advocate for healthy living.