Inset: The Mother vine on Roanoke Island is America’s oldest cultivated grapevine, dating back to the mid 1500s. Above: Not all bronze,
yellow and greenish muscadines are scuppernongs. The ones on this vine aren’t scuppernongs but another variety of muscadine.
WBM september 2017
INSET PHOTO COURTESY OF THEMOTHERVINE.COM
In the mid 1600s, when explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur
Barlowe, serving under the direction of Sir Walter Raleigh, landed
on the banks of what is now Roanoke Island, Barlowe was so taken
by the number of muscadine vines and fruit he saw that he wrote
to Raleigh extolling the fruitful land “... so full of
grapes as the very beating and surge of the
sea overflowed them ... in all the
world, the like abundance is not
to be found.”
became the first native
American grape to be
cultivated. It was named
after the Scuppernong
River, which runs
from Washington County
to the Albemarle Sound.
At first simply called the Big
White Grape, scuppernongs are
the original variety of bronze musca-dines
that were discovered growing in the wild.
Today, even though improved bronze varieties, such as
Carlos and Magnolia, have been developed for commercial plantings,
most people still refer to any bronze muscadines as scuppernongs.
’Tis the season for muscadines — they are around for a short
time from the end of August to October. Just when you think you
can’t bear the heat for one more week, the bronze and purple globes
show up at markets, promising the coming of fall.
In New York, muscadines are referred to
as “Swamp Grapes” or commonly
called “slip-skin” grapes, since a
firm squeeze on a plump, ripe
muscadine causes the juicy
seed-filled pulp to pop
right out of its durable
and sturdy skin.
A lot of growers con-sider
them large berries
— their size, to use tra-ditional
Tar Heel parlance,
are “about that of a hog’s eye.”
Scientifically speaking, they are
indeed berries but just happen to grow
in grape-like, loose clusters. The berries ripen
individually within that cluster and are not synchronized
like bunch grapes.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NORTH CAROLINA MUSCADINE GRAPE ASSOCIATION