Melissa Ray Davis is a freelance writer and photographer who enjoys writing about DIY topics, including cooking.
As we browsed the displays at the farmer's market, I passed a small stack of berry boxes full of strange, dark-purple fruits that were bigger than cherries and perfectly round. "Muscadines," I read from the sign. I turned to my husband, Morgan. "What are muscadines?"
A slight smile touched the corner of his mouth and his eyes unfocused a little, looking at something in his past. "They're a kind of grape. They only grow here in the South."
"Shall we get some? Do you like them?"
"They're pretty good. You'd probably like them. Go ahead." He paused for a moment, and then went on to tell me, "I used to eat them straight off the vine at Evan's house in the summers." Morgan's old friend Evan lived in an old house built in 1811 with a lot of land out in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Morgan has many magical memories of that place and his time there with Evan when they were children.
Appearance of Muscadines
Muscadine grapes are, on average, two times as big as the more common (European) grape varieties, with darker-purple, opaque skins and a pale, greenish-white pulp inside. One to three hard, light-green seeds, slightly smaller than peas, are found in the center of each muscadine. Muscadines looked much harder than more common varieties of grapes, but I was surprised to squeeze them and find that the skin yielded softly under my fingers, pliant and flexible, a soft vessel that promised to be brimming with juice. The fruit was still very sun-warm.
Flavor of Muscadines
I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor. Biting through the skin is much harder than a normal grape; it is very thick and tough. Once my teeth broke through, however, my mouth was filled with the incredibly sweet flavor of the juicy pulp inside. Avoiding the seeds, I savored the juice and then started chewing the skin. The tannins in the skin give it a tart, very slightly-bitter taste that made my mouth feel kind of dry. A lot of people recommend not eating the skin of muscadines because of this, but I found the tart skin to be a wonderful complement to the extreme sweetness of the pulp. The two flavors mixed well together—eating the whole fruit at once was a very pleasant experience. I found muscadines to taste a little closer to wine straight off the vine, richer and fuller than supermarket grapes.
Health Benefits of Muscadines
Eating the skins, it turned out, had more benefits than simply the flavor—they are also very good for your health. (See this article). It is in the skin and seeds where resveratrol is most concentrated, and resveratrol is a compound that has shown an ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. Muscadine puree contains more fiber than oat or rice bran, and the skins are also high in essential minerals. Ellagic acid is also in muscadines, which is "a natural organic compound thought to inhibit the start of cancer caused by certain chemicals." (Source)
These unique fruits are not only delicious, they're very good for your health. I give them a shining recommendation, and I'll be looking for dishes to use them in from now on!
Hope Creasman on August 05, 2020:
There is something on my muscadines that looks like spit or foam. Is this normal?
Dorothy G Scoto on February 20, 2020:
How deep do you have to plant them plus how far apart to you put them? Out are is not that big.
quincey on November 09, 2018:
it looks good
Joyce Clark on September 22, 2018:
I’ve been eating Muscadine grapes for years. I only found out it’s name thru you. I’ve always thought they were grown out of the US. On my next visit to N.C. I shall eat until my heart is content. Thanks
n CNN. on November 01, 2014:
oldiesmusic from United States on October 11, 2013:
I also read additional information about this on Wiki, it even has anti-cancer properties. Thanks for introducing me about this curious grape, I wish to taste that too. :)
John Sulik on November 12, 2012:
I haave been eating Muscadine grapes (skin,pulp,seeds) for 5 years and will bring some with me to Santa Barbara and Jennie I did appreciate the Geenpoint flood pictures...Greenpoint in my 18 years never flooded at all so that was a fearsome hurricane. Dad
Carla on October 03, 2011:
I live in north Alabama and just picked two gallon on them last night! I ate almost a gallon already! Our home was destroyed by the tornado but the vines remain standing alongside where our trees once stood
AUTIGERDEN130 on September 01, 2011:
I grew up in Alabama and have fond memories as a child eating muscadines off the vine. I reside in Georgia and work in Atlanta. There is a wooded area near the Chattahoochee where I work and often visit it at the end of the summer to pick muscadines. My brother made muscadine wine once. It was very potent.
Southernlady1932 on August 29, 2011:
Muscadines are delicious. They grow on vines in wooded areas and we have plenty of them in the area which I live. I am definitely s SOUTHERN GIRL!! I have eaten them picked right from the vine and my Mother always made Muscadine jelly which is yummy.
Doris Rodgers on October 31, 2010:
I HAPPEN TO LOVE SAN SEBASTIAN VINTERS RED (PREMIUM TABLE
WINE)...THE TASTE REMINDED ME OF THE GRAPES I USE TO LOVE
TO EAT RIGHT OFF THE VINE AT MY GRANDMOTHERS HOUSE MANY
YEARS AGO...WHICH WAS A CONCORD GRAPE...I THOUGHT THAT THE SAN SDBASTIAN VINTERS RED WINE THAT I DISCOVERED A
FEW YEARS AGO WAS MADE FROM THOSE CONCORD GRAPES THAT I
ENJOYED AS A 'KID'......DECEIDED TO READ THE LABLE & FOUND THAT WINE WAS ACTUALLY MADE FROM NATIVE MUSCADINE
GRAPES.....(GUESS THEY ARE SIMILAR -- THE MUSCADINE &
CONCORD IN TASTE -- AS CONCORD IS ALSO QUITE DARK PURPLE & GREEN INSIDE.....THOUGH THE CONCORD IS 1/3 IN SIZE)
daniewium from South Africa on April 20, 2008:
Hi Melissa, thanks for the great info. Do you know that there are ways to improve the berry size of vinifera grapes that can increase the size up to 3 times. As most seedless grape growers found out, the size of these seedless grapes normally disappoint the home grape grower. Using gibberellic acid and also girdling or ring-barking are proven techniques used by commercial grape growers all around the world
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on August 31, 2007:
I had read that muscadine grapes have higher concentrations of resveratrol than other varities. Thank you for this full description of what they taste like too because that's also very important!