Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Of Scuppernongs and Muscadines

They're here! They're here! The Scuppernongs and Muscadines have arrived...

What are Scuppernongs and Muscadines? I once asked the very same question when Lawman brought home a bag from Chinatown that appeared to be filled with giant grapes. They looked like thick skinned globe grapes on steroids. When I tasted them, they were so much better than any other grapes I've ever had. And now they are in season. Huzzah!

Scuppernongs and Muscadines are only grown commercially down South but in recent years they've been gaining popularity and extending their reach ever Northward. But Muscadines aren't new. In fact, they are a New World fruit encountered by early explorers and settlers with the first record of them written up in a ship's logbook in the year 1524 by Italian explorer, Giovanni de Varrazzano (shout out to the Verrazano Bridge, woot!). Scuppernongs are a yellowish or bronze variety of muscadines named for the the Scuppernong River in North Carolina. They are North Carolina's state fruit.

I love everything about these grapes. Underneath the thick, fibrous, and tart skin they have a layer of sweet juice and then a tart gummy pulp. Muscadines and Scuppernongs have seeds, so be careful when you crunch down. There are a couple schools of thought about eating them. Some people partially pop the muscadines in their mouths with the stem scar facing inwards then bite down and suck out the juice and pulpy center and discard the skin. Others pop the whole thing in their mouth enjoy it whole eating pulp, juice, and skin. Or you can do a combo. I like to eat the pulp and juice first and then the skin. Muscadines have loads antioxidants and more fiber than oats! Recent studies suggest there may be cardiovascular benefits to eating muscadines. So stock up and chow down.

Lawman recently found muscadines and scuppernongs in several fruit and vegetable markets stands Chinatown, including the stand in front of the Centre Street exit to the Canal Street JMZ and Q stop. The going rate seems to be $2.50 per pound for both muscadines and scuppernongs.


Siobhan said...

oh, that's what those are called?! and here I've been calling them "the really big grapes" my whole life. And I eat the skin because I didn't know you weren't supposed to.

Anonymous said...

be careful. they are delishhhhh. had too many though, and paid the price the next day when i believe i suffered a scuppernongs hangover/overdose. i was on my knees, calling to the lord in the bathroom for about 30 mins. :)