Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Muscadine Grape

To get things started on this blog, here is a bit of history on the muscadine grape.

What is a Muscadine Grape?
Muscadine grapes are native to the southeastern United States. Muscadines ripen from late July through mid October. They will often be on the vine until the first fall frost comes. They are large, thick-skinned and seeded grapes that grow in small, loose clusters and are often harvested as individual berries. They can be bronze, red or black in color. And they are sooooo delicious! A true southern treat. Georgia is the largest grower of muscadines with about 1200 acres in production. North Carolina is a close second.

The History of the Muscadine
Muscadines, known as American wild grapes, are native to the Southeastern United States, and thus well adapted to the warm, humid conditions of the region. The muscadine grape was discovered in America in 1584 by the early English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Later a golden bronze colored muscadine was found along the Scuppernong river in North Carolina and thus was named "scuppernong." Through the years, these wonderful tasting grapes, have developed numerous nicknames such as bullis, southern grapes and swamp grapes.

Though long a favorite of southerners for their sweet, fruity taste (muscadines make a delicious, nutritious snack straight from nature), recent research reveals that muscadines contain high levels of resveratrol. Resveratrol is one of the compounds in red wine which is believed to help reduce the risk of abnormal cells and heart disease. Muscadines are high in vitamin C and ellagic acid. Muscadines also contain potassium, vitamin B, and trace minerals.

Though they still grow wild, most of today's muscadines and scuppernongs are grown in commercial vineyards. Harvest season is typically August through mid-October.

The History of the Muscadine Name
Where did the name muscadine originate? When the early settlers arrived in America, they were familiar with the Muscat grape, which is a French grape that is used in making muscatel wine. And the word muscat derives from the Latin muscus, which describes the smell of a male musk deer. The early settlers called the sweet, musk-scented wild grapes that they found here by the same name as the sweet grapes they had known in Europe, and that eventually became muscadine.
Is it a Muscadine or a Scuppernong?
One of the most common questions we are asked is….What is the difference between a muscadine and a scuppernong ? Many people in fact consider any bronze muscadine to be a “scuppernong” But this is actually not true.

How to Eat a Muscadine
To eat a muscadine, place the grape with the stem scar facing upward in your mouth and squeeze or bite the grape. The pulp and juice will burst through the thick skin into your mouth. The skin can then be removed from your mouth and discarded and the seeds can then also be discarded or simply swallowed. Many love to eat the skin as well.

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