Contributed by Donna Hargrove, D.O., Nutrition Editor
Prolific, environmentally sound and good to eat!
Sea Grapes, or Coccoloba uvifera, is a flowering plant in the buckwheat family. It is native to coastal beaches throughout America and the Caribbean. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 7-26 feet. Sea Grapes are very salt tolerant, wind resistant, and can stand some shade but prefer full sun. They are unable to survive frost.
In addition to a landscape plant, the Sea Grape provides a protective canopy for animals and birds, lizards and other small creatures. They also help stabilize sand dunes and protect structures from storm-induced erosion. The Sea Grape has been deemed important enough to be protected under Florida Statue.
In late summer, the Sea Grape bears fruit in large, grape-like clusters which are green, gradually ripening to a purple color. Each grape contains a large pit which is most of the volume. These are the seeds and must be planted right away in order to germinate as that cannot be stored like other seeds. Male and female flowers are on separate plants and require cross-pollination by honey bees and other insects in order to bear fruit. The grapes can be eaten raw or made into jams or wine.
The nutritional value of Sea Grapes is thought to be similar to other purple grapes, being rich in copper, iron, potassium and manganese. They are also a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, K and beta carotene.
Sea Grape Jelly
From: Gourmet Bahamian Cooking
1 qt Sea Grape juice (see recipe to follow)
5 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1 pkg powdered pectin
5 cups sugar
Place grape juice in large pot over high heat. Add lemon or lime juice and pectin. Stir to mix and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in sugar and return to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off if necessary. Pour hot into hot, sterilized jelly jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Adjust caps and process 5 minutes in boiling water bath.
To prepare juice:
Wash grapes and measure quantity. Place in large pot with half as much water (1 cup water to 2 cups grapes). Bring to a boil. Mash often with potato masher (without crushing seed) and continue boiling until fruit is reduced to a soft pulp, about 25-30 minutes. Drain through several layers of cheesecloth. Do not squeeze.