Spring has certainly sprung here in south Georgia! Sunshine and warmer temperatures beg everyone outdoors, only to find everything covered in a fine, yellow dust. Spend too much time outside, and you’ll probably find yourself clawing your watery eyes out or sneezing your head off! Springtime is beautiful, but for those with allergies, it’s difficult to enjoy because of all the pollen.
Of course, pollen plays a very important role in growing fruit like we do here at Paulk Vineyards. So much of our harvest season in late summer and early fall is actually determined by what happens in the spring. In March, tender green shoots appear, and tiny leaves begin to grow. It’s amazing to see how the vines begin to come to life during this time! For so long, the vines lay dark and dormant, then suddenly, one morning little bits of green pop out in one field, while days later, another field starts to turn green too. Once those leaves start growing, the vines quickly fill out and show off their beautiful foliage.
The months of April and May bring the process of pollination and budding. Some varieties of muscadine vines are self-fertile, meaning that the vine bears “perfect flowers” that have both the male and female parts needed to make fruit. Many varieties, though, produce “imperfect” flowers with only female parts, so they require a self-pollinating vine nearby to pollinate and make fruit. Self-fertile vines are planted every few rows among female varieties to ensure successful pollination. The wind and insects are good friends to the pollination process, carrying pollen from row to row, while heavy rains during this time can wash the pollen away causing low yields at harvest.
With so many different varieties of muscadines available, we often are asked the questions of “Which variety is the best?” or “Why plant one variety over another?”
Since we ship fresh muscadines all over the country, there are certain qualities we look for in the muscadines we grow. Size, color, flavor, firmness, and yield all play into which varieties are chosen for fresh sales. There is also something called a stem scar, which is located where the muscadine was attached to the vine; we look for a dry stem scar, meaning that there isn’t a split where the juice from the fruit could escape. Many times, the best fruit comes from female varieties, so we just have to plant a self-fertile variety every few rows.
Pictured here are some of our favorite muscadine varieties like Supreme, Delicious, Fry & Triumph
Our favorite fresh market varieties over the years have been Supreme, Delicious, Fry, and Triumph, although we are also looking forward to seeing the ripe fruit from the Paulk variety. They ripen in a variety of sizes and colors, but they all taste great and ship well. We do have lots of people come in to our pick-your-own and request the Summit variety, which many refer to as “strawberry grapes” because of their super sweet flavor and darker, pinker skin color. Summit is definitely a crowd favorite, but because they are darker and not as firm as other varieties, they do not hold up to shipping very well.
Side note: grocery stores have their own standards for grapes that muscadines must meet, which is why many times, you may find greener varieties in the produce section. Even when they’re ripe, these varieties, like Granny Val, don’t taste as sweet as the darker colored scuppernongs, but they meet the grocery store requirements. If we ship them fruit that does not meet their standards, that fruit is rejected and disposed of or returned to us.
As far as our juices and wines go, the varieties we use are Carlos, Ison, and Noble. These muscadines are smaller, but they produce quite a lot of juice, which is great for processing juices and wines. Once the muscadines have been pressed for juice, the seeds and skins left behind are what we use for our dietary supplement line, Nobility.
Hopefully, this explains a little bit of the pollination process and why we choose the varieties of muscadines that we grow. Of course, we love all muscadines and scuppernongs! If you’re interested in planting your own vines, we encourage you to do a little research to decide which varieties you want to grow, whether they’ll grow in your area, and of course, if they’re perfect or imperfect flowering so you know if you need to plant more than one variety to ensure fruit production. Contact your local plant nursery, or you can purchase your plants online from Isons Nursery and Bottoms Nursery, which is where we buy ours. www.isons.com or www.bottomsnursery.com