In Season: Muscadines

The Muscadine is “a glorious grape — a seesaw of acidity and sweetness, with a rush of fruit flavors. The astringent crunch of the skin and the floral sweetness of the juice keep each other from their worst excesses,” says John Kessler in a lusciously written piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kessler also describes this variety, native to the American South, as “those taut, pingpong-ball grapes that show up in stores between August and October.” He adds that they can be purple or bronze, and if they’re bronze they’re known as scuppernongs. That’s not a word I’ve heard tossed around at my local Yankee farm stand—but these Southern staples, which are apparently popular in grandmothers’ backyards, are proving themselves to be rich in antioxidants, and are getting some serious attention down South:

More commercially cultivated muscadines are showing up on supermarket shelves, bringing in new fans. Wineries, particularly in North Carolina and Georgia, are proving that the grapes can make complex dry wines as well as sugar-sweet ones. And Southern chefs are cottoning to their ultra-grapey flavor: Scott Crawford at the Georgian Room at the Cloister at Sea Island finds it a perfect foil for cured trout.

I’ll definitely try to sample some during my upcoming trip to south Georgia, and in the meantime, if anyone (grandmothers or otherwise) wants to grow a backyard Muscadine vine, plants are available at Johnson Nursery (which says that the plants are “so very easy to grow with little to no spraying”) and at Ison’s Nursery & Vineyards.

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