Muscadines, known as American wild grapes, are native to the Southeastern United States. Thus, they are well adapted to the warm, humid conditions of the region. The muscadine grape was discovered in America in 1584 by the early English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Later a golden, bronze-colored muscadine was found along the Scuppernong River in North Carolina and thus was named “scuppernong.” Through the years, these wonderful tasting grapes have developed numerous nicknames such as bullis, southern grapes, and swamp grapes.
Though long a favorite of southerners for their sweet, fruity taste (muscadines make a delicious, nutritious snack straight from nature), recent research reveals that muscadines contain high levels of resveratrol. Resveratrol is one of the compounds found in red wine that is believed to help reduce the risk of abnormal cells and heart disease. Muscadines are high in vitamin C and ellagic acid. Muscadines also contain potassium, vitamin B, and trace minerals.
Though they still grow wild, most of today’s muscadines and scuppernongs are grown in commercial vineyards. Harvest season is typically August through September.
Here is a recent article by Gerard Krewer, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Science
Muscadines considered one of nature’s most healthful foods
By Gerard Krewer – Georgia Extension Service
For more than 250 years, southerners have enjoyed ‘the flavor of wild and domesticated muscadine grapes. Now, new research on muscadines is finding that they are one of nature’s most healthful foods.
In the early 1990s, Betty Ector began analyzing muscadine grapes at Mississippi State University. She found they were richer in fiber, zinc, manganese, iron and calcium: than most other fruits.
In later research, Ector found that they are one of the world’s richest sources of ellagic acid (thought to help prevent abnormal cells) and the phenolic compound, resveratrol.
High levels of resveratrol are found in both fresh muscadines and processed muscadine products. It is thought to be an important part of the “French paradox,” in which French people with rich diets who drink red wine have much less heart disease than expected. A new study by Minnie Holmes-McNary, at the University of North Carolina’s medical school in Chapel Hill, has determined that resveratrol is also a potent anti-abnormal cell compound. The substance switches off a protective mechanism in cells and, as a result, makes invading abnormal cells cells vulnerable to the body’s natural defenses.
The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, also found that muscadine wines can contain up to seven times more resveratrol than regular wines. Fresh muscadines are available from August 1 to mid October, depending on the location in the state. Since the University of Georgia grape breeders developed large-fruited types such as “Fry” and “Summit,” muscadines have become available in grocery stores and many farm markets. Nearly all southeastern wineries also produce muscadine wine.
Muscadine grapes, with their rich flavor and chewy skins, are an old southern favorite with outstanding health benefits.
Food for Thought
Georgia is the largest producer of muscadine grapes in the nation, with about 1,100 acres. Georgia’s climate is well suited for growing muscadines, which are traditionally used for making jams, sauces and wine.
Gerard Krewer is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.