It’s muscadine season — and today we’re bringing you some fast facts, quick tips, and everything you might not know about NC’s only indigenous grape. 🍇
Did you know that muscadines come in two colors (bronze or dark — a.k.a. greenish or purplish) and more than 100 different varieties?
The oldest recorded type of muscadine grape is the scuppernong. When Sir Walter Raleigh himself sent explorers to present-day North America in 1584, they sent home reports of “a land overflowing with grapes.” Muscadines grow wild in NC, but were first cultivated in Tyrrell County (near the Outer Banks) back in 1760. The historic scuppernong is large, juicy, and bronze, and common in traditional NC recipes, like hull grape pie or chicken and grape turnovers. A large percentage of modern varieties — including the Carlos and the Noble — are also used to make wine. There are more than 200 licensed wineries in NC + approximately 1,200 acres of muscadine vines. And it’s not just something my uncle David used to make for my family: some area wineries are producing muscadine wines nowadays, including Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon (~ an hour from Asheville).
If you’re unfamiliar with how to eat a muscadine grape, here’s a quick rundown:
- Don’t treat them like common vinifera grapes (a.k.a. table grapes, or European grapes) — they are likely seeded and have much thicker skins.
- Seeds and skins are edible (and nutritionally robust), but can be tough or bitter.
- It’s recommended to bite into a muscadine like you would a plum. The fruit will explode from the skin, making it easier to separate and eat. Discard the skin and spit out the seeds if you wish.
- If you just can’t deal with the seeds, check out two newly cultivated varieties called the RazzMatazz and the Oh My! You could also just cut them out like I do.
- You can find NC-grown muscadines at area markets including the WNC Farmers Market. To pick the best ones, look for dry-stem scars (without tears in the skin).
• Can’t find them? Ask your local market’s produce manager to stock them August to October.