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Muscadine: Alabama’s Native Grape

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By: Jennifer Kornegay

Alabama’s only native grapes are as full of valuable nutrients as they are flavor.

Muscadine grapes (of which scuppernongs are one variety) are the native grape of the Southeast and have been growing wild all over the region for centuries. Their verdant vines produce round, plump fruit that once nourished Native Americans, and they were discovered growing freely, climbing up trees and tangling over brush, by Europeans colonizing North Carolina. Today, this grape variety is cultivated all over Alabama in backyards, on farms and at wineries, and wild vines still twist around trunks tucked away in forests and tumble and crawl over fence posts on the edges of fields.

When I was a kid, my mama’s daddy had four lines of scuppernong vines off to one side of his backyard. On any late summer or early autumn visit, my attention was fixed on the sun-warmed, speckled golden orbs that hung from the vines, almost hidden beneath wide green leaves. I’d pick as many as I could reach and pop them in my mouth, devouring their distinct sweetness, earthy and woodsy. The grapes’ thick, sinewy skins make you work for even the tiniest taste; you have to chew through that rubbery exterior while your teeth dodge slippery, bitter seeds. But boy, is it worth it.

I still like eating muscadines straight out of hand. No muss. No fuss. Just a cup for spitting seeds in. They also hold up well to cooking and lend their sweetness to this month’s reader submitted recipes.

For the rest of this week, Alabama Living will be featuring Muscadine recipes. Follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss any of these great uses for Alabama’s grapes.