Muscadines: Native Grapes of the South

Updated on October 14, 2016
muscadine grapes
muscadine grapes

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: 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: 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: 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!

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        quincey 

        4 weeks ago

        it looks good

      • profile image

        Joyce Clark 

        2 months ago

        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

      • profile image

        n CNN. 

        4 years ago

        J

        .kppmm

      • oldiesmusic profile image

        oldiesmusic 

        5 years ago from United States

        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. :)

      • profile image

        John Sulik 

        6 years ago

        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

      • profile image

        Carla 

        7 years ago

        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

      • profile image

        AUTIGERDEN130 

        7 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Southernlady1932 

        7 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Doris Rodgers 

        8 years ago

        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 profile image

        daniewium 

        10 years ago from South Africa

        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

      • livelonger profile image

        Jason Menayan 

        11 years ago from San Francisco

        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!

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