It’s fall in the South and the muscadines are getting ripe. If you aren’t familiar with muscadine grapes, it’s time to introduce yourself. September and October are the prime months for enjoying this prolific native of the southeastern United States that grows wild and thrives where the climate is hot and humid.
Muscadine grapes are large as compared to other varieties and grow in small clusters. They can range in color from very dark purple – almost black – to bronze and green. The muscadine is known for its extremely tough, thick skin that helps the grapes resist rot and mildew in their native humid climates. They make a healthy, low-calorie snack, can brighten up a salad, make scrumptious jams and jellies and like their distant cousins, can be used for making wine. And, in addition to being delicious and versatile, muscadine grapes are extremely nutritious, providing more antioxidants than almost any other fruit.
Carbohydrates. A ½ cup serving of muscadine grapes provides between 6.3 and 10.2 percent of an adult’s daily carbohydrate needs. Carbohydrates are your body and brain’s main source of energy, to fuel your daily activities.
Fiber. Almost 30 percent of the carbohydrates in muscadines come from fiber. Fiber is the part of plants that your body can’t digest. It adds bulk to foods, making you feel fuller and plays a major role in weight management, a healthy digestive system and may play a role preventing colon cancer.
Vitamins. One serving of muscadine grapes contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and the B vitamin riboflavin. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight and for the reproductive system. Vitamin C supports immune system health and plays a role in wound healing. Riboflavin aids energy production and metabolism.
Minerals. Muscadines contribute minerals to your diet, including calcium, for strong bones and teeth, magnesium, which helps the body synthesize protein and phosphorous, for bone mineralization and energy production. It also contains 5 percent of the RDA for potassium, critical for sodium balance and nerve function.
Antioxidants. All grapes are rich in antioxidants plant chemicals that reduce oxidative stress, prevent cell damage, and fight free radicals that cause cancer and other diseases. Muscadines are especially rich in the polyphenolic compound resveratrol, which has been studied for its antioxidant benefits in numerous diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Another group of polyphenols called flavonoids have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and play a role in cellular enzyme function. They may also play a key role in antibiotics resistance and the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
Note: When eating muscadines whole, be sure to leave on the skins to preserve the healthy nutrients that are contained in it.
My first memories of the mighty muscadine came in the form of homemade jelly lovingly created by a favorite aunt. I think muscadines and scuppernongs make the prettiest jelly of all. The combination of its sweet and twangy (not a typo) flavor is a perfect compliment to toast, biscuits and rolls. Yum! I get hungry just thinking about it. I would later come to appreciate the muscadine’s role in Mississippi wine production – due to it’s preference for hot, humid growing conditions and resistance to insects, rot and mildew that plague other grape varieties. While a little sweet for my taste, muscadine wine makes a refreshing wine spritzer with a little clear soda like Sprite, garnished with a fresh sprig of mint.