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Grapes

Overview

Traditionally, Georgia's grape and wine industry has been known for the state's native muscadine grape. In fact, Georgia leads the nation in its production of these grapes. Recently, however, modern fungicides have yielded successful production of the European bunch grape and French-American hybrids in north Georgia.

Muscadines

In 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh landed on the coast of North Carolina and found...Muscadines.

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are a wild grape variety native to the southeastern United States.

Raleigh described them as being "on the sand and on the green soil, on the hills as on the plains, as well as on every little shrub... also climbing towards the tops of tall cedars... in all the world the like abundance is not to be found."

Georgia is the largest producer of muscadine grapes in the nation with approximately 1400 acres in 2006. Georgia's climate is well suited for growing muscadines which are traditionally used for making jams, sauces and wine. However, they are not well adapted to the high mountain areas of Georgia.

For more than 400 years farmers have worked to tame the muscadine, developing varieties such as Acarlos and Agolden Isle. These varieties still cover the backyards and home gardens of Georgia and surrounding states. They range in color from tawny bronzes to purple black.

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service and Mississippi State University have found significant amounts of resveratrol in the skin, pulp and seeds of muscadine grapes. Resveratrol is the compound in red wines said to lower cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease.

In the Southeast, muscadines are grown to make juice. But the researchers are now using muscadine waste from juice processing to make products like muffins, jams and granola cereal. One-half serving (two ounces) of unfiltered muscadine juice, one serving of muscadine jam, one medium muscadine muffin or one-tenth serving of muscadine sauce give the same dietary amounts of resveratrol as four fluid ounces of red wine, the researchers say. Their report is in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture (vol. 47, pp. 57-61).

Muscadines are now marketed as juice, jellies, jams, preserves, syrups and dessert toppings. In south Georgia, muscadine harvest typically begins in early August.

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