Lounging on my favorite beach chair in front of the One Love in Jost Van Dyke, I notice tons and tons of these green fruity bunches hanging from the tree above me. Sure, I’ve seen them before but I’d never seen the bountiful bunches of grapes quite like this — since we usually don’t travel to the islands in the summer.
Curious to learn more about them, I began doing a little research and learned a lot. The fancy name for the sea grape is Coccoloba Uvifera and is a species of flowering plant that is native to coastal beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean.
In the summer months, the sea grape bears green fruit in large, grape-like clusters. The fruit gradually ripens to a purplish color. Each contains a large pit that constitutes most of the fruit. They’re wind resistant and moderately tolerant of shade. They’re highly tolerant to salt, so they’re often planted to stabilize beach edges. When ripened to a deep purple color, the fruit is very tasty, and can be used for jam or even eaten directly from the tree. It can also be fermented for a tasty fermented wine. (I love wine, so this makes me happy!).
I haven’t tried making this yet, but here is a yummy sea grape jelly recipe from the folks at Edible Palm Beach.
SEA GRAPE JELLY
2 cups sea grapes
1 cup water
2 lemons or limes (preferably Key limes)
4. 5 cups of sugar
Wash and then boil the sea grapes in a ratio of 2 cups sea grapes to 1 cup water for 25-30 minutes, crushing occasionally, until they are soft and palatable. Drain the juice through a jelly bag into a container (without squeezing).
Pour the juice into a pot and stir in the lemon or lime juice with a wooden spoon, and then add the pectin. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and add the sugar. After it returns to a boil, let it remain boiling for one minute, always stirring.
After removing from heat, skim foam if necessary. Sterilize jars in a 5-minute boil bath. Pour juice into the jars, leaving a quarter-inch of space at the top of the jar.
Chill, and enjoy!
A note of caution, sea grapes may look tempting at the beach, but don’t harvest them there. Sea grapes are often protected because their purpose is to help prevent sand erosion and give protection to native birds and sea turtles.