Muscadine Memoriam

This may be a strange title to the unknowing.

Muscadines and their even lesser known brothers, scuppernongs, are some of the most enjoyable fruits that nature have to offer us. I may be biased, but hold on for a ride down memory lane.

As a child I distinctly remember a thick patch of muscadines (pronounced muh-skuh-dine) and scuppernongs (skuh-puh-nines) growing along the chain-link fence of my childhood home. Out back, against the acre-and-a-half of wooded land we owned to our right, these vines snaked up and down, along and even further into the woods. The muscadines grew high, if I remember correctly, and the scuppernongs grew low. I imagine that’s because the scuppernongs were heavier than the muscadines, and thus drooped low and closer to the ground.

Both are essentially grapes, and if my research is correct, is mostly cultivated and grown wild in the southeastern United States. I think they can be found as far north as Delaware, south as far as Florida (where else is there to go), and west out to Texas. The muscadines grow in a royal purple color, and the scuppernongs grow in a bronze or gold color. They’re chock full of seeds, which make eating them a challenge, but they’re so worth the endeavor.

The reason they’re so essential to my childhood, I think, is because I distinctly remember my father and myself walking the fence or the forest to collect them. My parents even made a muscadine wine once; don’t know how well that fared in hindsight, but I digress… Their flavor reminds me of easier times (for me at least) and also always marked a changing of the seasons. When it was time for muscadines and scuppernongs, the cooler-trending autumn was right around the corner. And for me that meant the smell of fallen leaves, better breezes, cooler nights, and the spooky time surrounding October. I’m sure I’ll write a blog post or dozen surrounding October and all that comes with… I will, trust me.

They’re versatile, though. Once you pop the outer skin, which is thicker than a standard grape, you’re greeted with a burst of super sweet, super acidic juice. Then you’ve got to chomp through the meat of one side and get the seeds out, spitting them away. Finally, you can enjoy the delight of the fruit. Discard the skin, and start again with a fresh muscadine. You can make preserves, wines, beer, jellies, jams, and juice them for a regular drink.

As I’m writing this, I’m researching a little more. Apparently the oldest cultivated vine in North America is in North Carolina, and it’s a strain of muscadines used for all sorts of purposes, and they tout health benefits to boot. I’ll go read some more on this, and maybe report back.

Photo by nathan burrows on Unsplash

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