Muscadines, the South’s most popular indigenous grape, appear pervasively at farmers markets and in grocery stores through late summer and into fall. Similar in taste to common table grapes but with an earthier undertone, muscadines are seeded and have thick skins that soften appealingly when cooked.
Two Georgia families, the Paulks of Wray (between Macon and Valdosta) and the Isons of Brooks (a tiny town below Peachtree City), drive muscadine commerce. Paulk Vineyards is the world’s largest producer of the fruit, responsible for nearly all the muscadines you find in stores throughout the Southeast. Now 600 acres strong, Paulk started with vines from Ison’s Nursery and Vineyard, which ships plants across the South.
Smaller producers buy from Ison’s as well. Fred and Gordon Gibbs in Carrollton maintain a half acre of muscadine vines and bring about a hundred gallons of fruit to the town’s Cotton Mill Farmers Market every summer and fall. There are more than two dozen common varieties of muscadines, so ask the purveyors at your local farmers market about which they grow, their degrees of sweetness, and, if you’re interested in making wine or muscadine jelly, their levels of juiciness.
This article originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.