The Grape Vine has a multitude of uses – more than I thought to be quite honest! The principle one, in my humble opinion, has been the wine it produces….however it is used in a plethora of different ways.
The leaves are preserved in brine and used to parcel fillings, such as minced meat, fish and rice (Dolmades). The fruits are made into wine, vinegar, juice and jelly. Dried fruits are known as currants, raisins and sultanas according to their variety. Seeds yield a polyunsaturated oil, suitable for mayonnaise and cooking, especially frying. Cream of Tartar or potassium bitartrate, a crystalline salt, is extracted from the residue of pressed grapes known as ‘marc’ and the sediment of wine barrels. It is used in baking powders, laxatives and soldering fluxes.
The Vine’s latest use is now in Soap!!!
A company called “The Curly Vine” has been reported in The Independent, Saturday 03.06.06 as making wine soaps:
“Handcrafted using a cold press method combining wine lees, selected oils and rain water. Essential oils have been added to the soaps, so Chardonnay is perfumed with Lime Oil, Cabernet Sauvignon with Eucalyptus and Shiraz with Vanilla. The soaps retain glycerine and are blended with Olive Oil for deep skin moisturising.”
This is all a long, long way from how soap was traditionally made. I was reading John Seymour’s “The Forgotten Arts” and was drawn into his description of soap making, which I shall recount for you. John Seymour is the expert on self sufficiency and is a celebrated advocate of a return to life on the land. His book “The Forgotten Arts” is spiced with anecdotes from his encounters with working craftspeople in different parts of the world:
“I was forced to shoot a lion because it was eating domestic animals, and my employer’s mother stripped all the fat off the carcass and made soap out of it. Ostriches, which, like male lions, also tend to chubbiness, are much sought after for this purpose as well…
I am not suggesting that ostriches or lions should be bred specifically for making soap, or hunted either. I am simply trying to illustrate the undeniable fact that soap is simply fat, which surprisingly is classified chemically as an acid, neutralized by an alkali…
Everybody who has been camping knows that if you take some of the ashes from your camp fire and mix them into the fat in your frying pan, they clean the pan surprisingly easily. This is because you have made soap.”
Traditionally, in the UK, the fat used to make soap were beef (tallow), sheep and pig (lard). Not a very enticing recipe compared to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz! And I bet it didn’t smell as good!