Muscadine grapes (vitis rotundifolia) are excellent wine grapes, delicious to eat, especially nutritious and many times more productive than that of regular grape vines. Considered a superfruit, the muscadine is an American grape, native to the Southeastern U.S., which has a taste very similar to concord grapes or even grape soda. They can be addictive. Muscadine grapes are suited to hot and humid climates where other grapes will not perform, and they have a very low chill hour requirement. Muscadines do contain seeds, which people have come to avoid in grapes over the last few decades, but those seeds are an extra packed source of resveratrol, antioxidants and multiple beneficial phenolic compounds. Certainly, the seeds can be spit out. But in an age where people pay for grapeseed extract and other natural supplements, it is possible to eat the seeds. Muscadine grapes do not ripen together in huge clusters, but rather they ripen individually and grow in little groups of about 3 or 4 berries all along the vine. But sometimes they do cluster together in as many as 15-20 grapes. This means they can be more labor-intensive to harvest, which may be one reason why traditional grapes became more commercially available. But the home gardener often knows the secrets of many edible treasures that were passed over on the basis of profitability. Mature muscadine vines can develop three-inch thick trunks and span over 20 feet in length. Ideally, they should be trellised on a wire with posts 10 feet apart. Each season, in early spring before the leaves begin growing, the vines are cut back to the main stems to remove any of the thinner stems back to the thicker, woodier stems. This process will thicken the main stems and force the plant to send out new shoots. Aside from pruning, muscadine grapes are pretty low maintenance. Their thick skin makes them disease and rot resistant and can tolerate a bit of neglect. They also hold up to spoliage a bit better, and they are perfectly fine being frozen if you are using them for wine or juice. Once established, muscadine grape vines will produce for decades. Muscadine leaves are also edible and can be used just like regular grape leaves. The grapes are also spectacular in jams and jellies. And of course, muscadine wine can create a wide spectrum of wines from sweet to dry. But they are usually made into sweeter style wines and often mixed with other fruits and served chilled.
Growing Information: Vitis Rotundifolia usually prefers cold treatment in order to germinate. To simulate the natural chill hours the plants would experience, you can either plant the seeds outside in winter, or you can put them in the fridge for a month.PLant them about 1/4- 1/8″ deep in any standard potting or seed-starting mix. Maintain proper moisture until they sprout. This will usually take at least a few weeks. Provide structure for climbing. Little maintenance is required once the plant is established. This plant is ideal for zones 5-9, but can reportedly grow all over Florida. Ideally, they should have at least 300 chill hours to fruit.
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