September 21, 2009

Of Grapes: Wild & Tame

I had quite a few comments on my Wild Muscadines post from folks who were unfamiliar with them. Well, I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and didn't know what they were until I lived in the South for awhile. I thought a follow up would be a useful way to organize and share some information.

Wild muscadine grapesMuscadines (Vitis rotundifolia, subspecies Muscadinia) are wild grapes.

Here are some fast facts:
  • Common names: Muscadine, Bullace, Scuppernong, Southern Fox Grape
  • Native to the new world, and found throughout the southeastern United States, and up the east coast as far as New York State.
  • Gathered and dried by Native Americans for who knows how long
  • Noted in great abundance in 1564 by Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Wine was made from them as early as 1565 by Spanish settlers in Florida
  • Vigorous, deciduous vines grow 60-100 ft. in the wild.
  • Color ranges from greenish bronze to purplish black
  • Scuppernongs are a variety of bronze muscadine
  • Scuppernongs were the 1st named variety (1810 by Dr. Calvin Jones, North Carolina)
  • Fruit is borne in clusters rather than bunches
  • Fruit is fragrant, seedy, & has tough skins
  • Tart but edible off the vine
  • Most common uses: jam, jelly, pie, juice, wine
  • Rich in antioxidants (esp. resveratrol) & dietary fiber
  • Vigorous, deciduous vines growing 60-100 ft. in the wild
  • A good wildlife planting for cover, browse, and fruit
  • Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions as long as well drained
  • Prefers a pH between 5.8 – 6.5
  • Produces best in sun
  • Has either perfect (self-fertile) flowers, or imperfect (female)
  • Prefers warm, humid conditions. Not cold hardy. Have been successfully grown in California, Oregon and Washington.
  • Over 300 cultivated varieties are available to the home gardener
Check with your state cooperative extension service if you think you might be interested in growing them.

Bibliography &/or for more information:
America's First Grape - The Muscadine - USDA
Muscadine - Wikipedia
Muscadine Grape Fruit Facts - California Rare Fruit Growers
Muscadine Grapes in the Home Garden - NC State
Muscadine Grape - Muscadine Naturals - health benefits & nutritional analysis

Bunch Grapes are what we usually think of when we think of grapes.

Unknown variety of bunch grapesTwo types are grown commercially in the United States, the European bunch grape (Vitis vinifera) and the American bunch grape (V. labrusca).

Some fast facts:
  • Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs show the cultivation of grapes
  • Most modern grapes were developed in Spain, Italy, & France
  • Spanish Franciscan Friars cultivated the first grapes in California, for making sacramental wine
  • Used for fresh eating, jelly, jam, dried as raisins, seed oil, and wine
  • Usually classified as either table or wine grapes
  • Over 50 varieties of table grapes
  • 98 percent of commercial table grapes are grown in California
  • Leaves are edible and used for dolma.
  • Clusters bear 6 - 300 grapes.
  • Colors range from crimson, black, dark blue, yellow, and green, to pink
  • Can be seeded or seedless
  • Botanically a true berry
  • Adapted to many soil types, but require a good drainage with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0
  • Require good air circulation and sun exposure
  • A mature vine can yield 10 to 15 pounds of fresh fruit
  • American type better suited for the American East Coast
Check with your state cooperative extension service if you're interested in information for your area.

Bibliography &/or for more information:
Bunch Grape - Clemson University
Bunch Grapes in the Home Garden - NC State
Grapes - Wikipedia
How to grow from cuttings - Lon J. Lombough
What Are Different Types of Grapes - wiseGEEK

Of Grapes: Wild & Tame text & photos copyright 


Julie said...

They wouldn't grow here! But we can grow a small green grape that is very sweet! My mom used to wash them and put a little sugar on them while they are still wet and then freeze them. They are so good to eat frozen while watching TV.


I visited a vinyard this summer that grew muscadines & scuppernongs. They made sweetest wine I ever tasted, great jellies and jams too. This is their webpage, I thought you'd enjoy visiting it.

bspinner said...

Growing up in N. Dak. we didn't have grapes either. I suppose because it was to cold.
We did plant concord grapes at our other house and love them.
They looks so good and make great jelly.

Leigh said...

Wow, Julie, sounds like a great idea for grapes. I'll have to try that sometime.

Deep End, thanks for the link. It was an interesting site to look around. So far I've only made jelly with my muscadines. I suppose if I ever have a surplus in the future, I will try something else.

Barb, I read that Concord grapes are one of the most popular for home orchards because theymake some of the best jelly. I'm beginning to think that this is what my bunch grape vine is. Maybe next year I'll get a few more.

Flower said...

Thanks for that information! It's fun to learn these things! Grapes are so tasty and come in such interesting varieties!