Nantucket grapes

They said there was a hurricane coming. We took the boat anyways; pulled on our wellies and oilskins in Hyannis and climbed aboard. The rain poured down and wind wailed across the waves, cresting heavy and crashing against engine and bow.

But by the time we reached the island, all signs of her were gone. Hannah was a distant memory, a laughable demon amidst cobbled streets and orderly gray clapboard.

The sun beamed down, and we passed mile after mile of uninterrupted blue as we motored away from Nantucket town and out towards 'Sconset.

Eventually, we reached an old dirt road that led into the only wilds left on this island enclave for the moneyed and malcontent. It led across the moor, past Altar Rock and Gibbs pond and the heather that shimmered purple in the light. Finally, we pulled up next to a cranberry bog and waded in to see the fruit. There wasn't much to see just yet: with harvest still a month away, the bogs sat dry, a waving sea of red and green.

But getting back towards the road, tucked under a canopy of broad, withered leaves, I saw the twisted vines of a Concord grape. I walked closer, peering under the green and into the woody thicket. Bunch upon bunch of purple fruit hung tart on the vine.

The grapes are wild, someone in town told us later. They call them "fox grapes," the vines creeping across sandy fields and roads and up the ready trellises of island homes. Fox grape jams and jelly's used to be the pride of every woman on the island, storerooms packed with jar upon jar tucked away for the long winter.

They're not quite ripe yet, and heavily seeded. I spit the seeds into the bushes as we drive out the sandy track, the sour fruit puckering my tongue. I hope someone still remembers to pick them come October.


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