Chronicle of New Foods: Muscadines and Scuppernongs

This Southern-style grape is one of the tastiest fruits I've enjoyed

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By David Hammond

For anyone living south of the Mason-Dixon line (specifically in western South Carolina and southern Texas), muscadines and scuppernongs are nothing new.

To a Yankee, they're exotic fruit, a kind of grape that comes in basically two shades: deep blue (muscadine) and green (scuppernong).

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago's Portage Park neighborhood, our next door neighbor was a guy named Henry Grill. He as an old country Italian (in fact, he came over on "the boat" with my great-grandmother). Grill kept a marvelous garden, with an arbor that gave forth concord grapes. As a kid, I liked concord grapes okay, but they always seemed to have too many seeds.

Muscadines and scuppernongs taste remarkably similar to concord grapes – very sweet with almost gelatinous fruit texture, but here's the thing: they have a much higher fruit to seed ratio, so it seems worth the effort to pick out seeds.

However, according to some, picking out the seeds may not be necessary.

At the Greenville, South Carolina, farmers' market last weekend, we met Walker and Ann Miller, owners of The Happy Berry. When Walker mentioned that one can just chew the seeds of muscadines and scuppernongs, his primary crop, I mentioned that maybe that was not such a good idea for those diagnosed with diverticulitis (pockets in the gut that are irritated by seeds, hard shells, etc.). Ann quickly pointed out that no one has ever found muscadine or scuppernong seeds in the gut of patients with diverticulitis.

Perhaps – what's certain is that the Millers have gulped down the muscadine/scuppernong kool-aid, and they're fierce advocates for the fruit, calling it on their site the "nutraceutical secret of the South."

This Southern-style grape is one of the tastiest fruits I've enjoyed. It is available seasonally at Fresh Farms in Niles and at some Treasure Island locations.


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