Things southern: Scuppernongs

A rare treat I discovered here in Georgia is the Scuppernong, a green grape indigenous to the southern states of America. First discovered by Giovanni de Verrazzano in 1524, these bulbous fruit are a bronze variety of the Muscadine family. They have a thick skin with a texture I’ve never really experienced before; people have evolved different approaches to eating them.

scuppernongs
Scuppernong Grapes

I stumbled upon them in the Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, which has the largest selection of produce I’ve ever seen assembled in one place. There was a small display of Scuppernongs and Muscadines next to the rest of the grapes, which I wouldn’t have noticed except for two or three shrieks by fellow shoppers when the local grapes were available. I was about to go for the standard Muscadine when a woman picked up two or three of the broze variety and told her friend that the Scuppernongs were riper and sweeter this early in the season. Can’t argue with that.

My friend Zach says that hicks in the south drink Muscadine wine, and are commonly seen foraging by the roadside for fresh ones. Sounds like a likely story, but I can’t seem to find anything on the web about the hillbilly’s affection for this grape. And of course if it’s not on the web, it’s not true.

87 thoughts on “Things southern: Scuppernongs

  1. I just wanted to post an excerpt from some reminiscences we found on my dad’s computer after he died. I hope they have scupperonong arbors in heaven…

    “As for the scuppernong arbor, Frank and I loved to climb on top when they were ripe and lay back eating the grapes.”

  2. I have about 25 plants growing now an cant wait until august an sept. my wife can eat all i have they are delicious . i lived in lithoni ga. 30 years an had 50 vines there an let any one that wanted them have all they wanted
    B.R.

  3. I’ve been looking for scuppernong grapes since I started teaching the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1976. In the ovel the children are told not to climb Miss Maudie’s scuppernong arbor. The closest I’ve been able to find is scuppernong wine (which is not suitable for a tasting party held for high school sophomores). Galbet

  4. I have been looking for scuppernongs since 1976 when I started teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In the novel the children are told not to climb Miss Maudie’s scuppernong arbor. The closest I’ve been able to find is scuppernong wine which is not suitable for a sophomore class tasting party.
    Galbert

  5. does anyone know of a website that sells the grape vines. i loved them but now live on the other ocean and so of course can’t find them i would love to try to grow them, if even just in a pot.

  6. I just discovered scuppernogs while vacationing in the FL panhandle. I cannot believe how good they are. I will be looking for ways to get some here in Central FL. The remind me of the fragrant flavor of concord grapes when I was a child, only much sweeter.

  7. I bought a house with scuppernong vines on a half acre and have just started my harvest. Was told to pick when soft yet still gold and dusty.Hope that was good advice. I will let you know how the wine is in November.

  8. I recommend Carlos White Muscadine from Chautaugua Vineyards near DeFuniak Springs in the Panhandle of Florida. I will refrain from commentary on how some, who consider themselves sophisticates, betray themselves as narrow and provincial when the subject is Southern custom and culture.

  9. Scuppernongs a/k/a Georgia Bullets I got turned on to these grapes by a Co-worker back in 1987.And yes! They told me their Dad makes a great wine with them however I’m not a wine drinker.I love the Georgia Bullets sadly they come around on occassion not year round and down here in Miami there about $5.00 @ Publix.

  10. Dear Zach,

    This southern hick and connoisseur of scuppernongs has written a poem in sonnet style out of reverence to the native grape. You can read it on kozachekart.blogspot.com “Ode to the Scuppernong”

  11. If anyone is interested in Suppernong vines, I have a yard full (it is kind of like kudzu & can get out of control easily) and will gladly find some runners for you and ship out if you are willing to pay the cost of shipping.

    If you are interested,just email me at asb.immortality@gmail.com

  12. I grew up in NYC, but my mother was from North Carolina, We spend many summers there, and I have a vivid memory of her getting all excited that we were there at scuppernong time: We drove down a winding dirt road pm Grandfather’s farm and stopped at a fairly nondescript spot, but in the tangle of overgrowth there was an ancient grape arbor, covered in vines, that Mom remembered from her girlhood. You could smell the ripened grapes in the warm breeze, and there is no way I can describe the taste or the smell, except to say that it’s one of those smells that makes you just float away in ecstasy. We spend the afternoon picking grapes and eating them, warm from the sun and so sweet and tender, and Mom, normally a bit reserved and severe, thawed in the Carolina sun as we shared a ritual of her girlhood. We picked a bucketful for my grandmother and brought them home to her, but nothing beat the taste of the grapes right from the vine, golden and warm, and sweetened with memories.

  13. I always wondered about scuppernong wine from reading the book “The Old Man And The Boy” It followed them on their travells and adventures thru the carolina’s. Mention of sweet delicious scuppernong wine ran thru out the book. Well much to my delight I found a bottle of scuppernong wine while visiting the outerbanks of north carolina. It was simply wonderful. delicious. I think I want to find more bottles to make a good sangria with the suppernong wine as the base. Anyway over and out from NYC.

  14. Just a tip: here in Georgia they are pronounced “SKUP-nuns”. They grow wild, or people have a vine in their back yard. You can get them at most farmers markets at the right time of year.

    We mostly just eat them plain. Now, for muscadines (their relative), my aunt makes a delicious cobbler!

  15. I live in MS and the way we pronounce them is scuppie-nons.My grandmother would make a pie from ones growing in her backyard.She would juice them in a colender and add sugar.She would then make homemade yeast roll dough.On the bottom of a deep metal pan(about 4″) she would place small bisket size dumplins of roll dough.Add the juice then place strips of dough on top then bake.When you get ready to serve add a big dollop of butter and enjoy.

  16. There are two types of the wild purple/black muscadines that grow wild here in Alabama, the
    larger ones we always referred to as Mucadines,
    and the much smaller berry are referred to as
    Fox grapes and are much sweeter than the larger
    berry.We grow both of the tame varieties of
    muscadines in our yard, being the blue/back we
    refer to as muscadines and the bronze colored
    berries as scuppernongs and somewhat sweeter.
    They are just great to pull from the vines and
    eat, we’ve made lots of jelly that’s really
    good on those hot biscuits in the mornings, or
    you can make some of the best tasting wine that
    you will ever find,it’s out of this world and
    may I add that my Morgan Horses said they prefer
    them right off the vine.If you’ve never eaten the
    fruit, just don’t know what you’re missing !!
    Oh yes, when purchasing the the vines, there are
    (several) different variesties of the dark & bronz
    so besure to check. ENJOY

    P.Weaver

  17. I live in NW Ga and started growing muscadines three years ago because I really enjoyed the scuppernongs and the wine that my mother made years ago.
    Muscadines can be black, white or red. They can be self fertile or female. One of the white muscadines, Scuppernong, was discovered, growing on the banks of the Scuppernong river in N.C. centuries ago, is female and needs a self fertile variety in close proximity to really produce a large crop. Also, the Scuppernong, medium size, has about 17% sugar content.
    Even though I am a Ga Tech Grad, The University of Ga has an excellent site regarding culture.
    http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/L225-w.html
    I have Scuppernong, Carlos, Fry, and Cowart.
    My two Concord grape vines would have yielded fruit but the drought just dried them up. The wasps and bees loved them.
    The watering restriction didn’t allow my grapes nor the blueberries to do much except to survive.

    My advise to potential growers:
    Use wires that are stong enough to support heavy vines. I must soon install steel to replace large aluminum clothes wire. The aluminum has stretched and sags.
    If I had a sunny patio, I would erect an arbor over it. I would use Fry muscadines( large, self fertile, and reasonably high sugar.).
    The birds, bees, and wasps will love you.
    John

  18. Wow, I can’t believe I have never heard of this amazing fruit before! I, too, am reading To Kill A Mockingbird and had to look up what they were talking about. Being a native Nevadan (where hardly anything grows lol), of course I wouldn’t have heard of it. Does anyone know if they would grow out here? Now I’m really intrigued haha

  19. I need help! For my English class we have to make scuppernong juice since we read the book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I need either scuppernongs or muscadines. Does anyone know where to find them? In central florida? HELP!!!!

  20. There is definitely a muscadine wine available in most grocery stores. I’ve sold many a case. The grapes are plentiful this year, but the birds, raccoons, possums, and squirrels will probably get them before I can. They will probably ripen in Sept. and Oct.

  21. We have bought property in Middle Ga and one Large spot is cover with these muscadine vines. How do I know which type we have or if they are male or female

  22. Had a great time reading through your blog – searching to find out if anyone knew how to tell if the vine is male or female? Funny though, I am a Florida Native and have been eating scuppernongs a.k.a. muscadines since I can remember, so I figured I would post my piece. Grew up right here in Central Florida (in the part still considered Southern by the natives) in Seminole County near Oviedo, Chuluota and Geneva (try the local farmers markets on Saturdays for some scuppernongs/muscadines) but my family is from Okeechobee (another Southern town) where some of the best scuppernongs you’ll ever eat grow. We didn’t plant them, maybe someone in the family did (family’s lived on this land for over 100 years), and we pick them fresh every season. I can remember when I was a child spending hours outside playing and picking for a mid-late day treat! They taste amazing and I truly feel for those who have never had the opportunity to taste them! You can make jelly, wine, pies, tarts…I prefer them fresh off the vine. If you would really like to grow them here in Central Florida you can find them at Lukas Nursery or South Seminole Farm & Nursery (I think a 1 gallon pot is $2). I did a cutting of the one at my Popa’s and just hope that it gets as big as the one at his house! Now, if I could just figure out if the piece I got is a male or female… Good Luck Ya’ll!

  23. There is a replica of a scuppernong arbor in the 1956 b/w film version of “The Bad Seed.” Little Rhoda Penmark tells her mother that she is going to play with her tea set under the scuppernong arbor in the backyard.

    Frank Thompson
    Ruidoso, New Mexico

  24. As a boy in Alabama in the 50′s and 60′s I was very familiar with scuppernongs (which we pronounced SCUP-pa-nogs) and muscadines (MUS-kee-DINES). Scuppernongs were about the size of a quarter or a little larger; muscadines about the size of a dime. Both were very sweet on first bite, and scuppernongs had a very thick and tough-ish skin. The meat of the scuppernong was slick and wet but chewy, almost the consistency of a raw oyster but a tad tougher. Muscadines meat was a little less tough. The skin of both could be bitter if chewed, and it was best to spit it out as soon as you had popped open the juicy globes in your mouth.

    While not a wild grape, the persimmon (pur-SIMM-mun) was a common but odd wild fruit. If you are not familiar with it, when fully ripe the persimmon had a very sweet taste but the texture of its flesh, dry and firm, was unlike any other I can recall ever having encountered. Care had to be taken not to bite into an unripe persimmon, as it will draw your mouth up like a mouthful of alum for several minutes. While the wild grape vines are still very common in Alabama, today I do not see nearly as many persimmon trees as 50 years ago, certainly not with trunks of more than 6-10 inches diameter. Of course, until metal-head drivers and fairway woods took over, persimmon was very desired by golfers due to its extreme hardness. I’m told that Japanese industrialists still greatly prize persimmon wood for use in their golf clubs, and perhaps that, along with the continuing deforestation of the state, accounts for the fruit tree’s scarcity.

    Another very common sweet and juicy edible plant in ALabama was ribbon cane, a variety opf sugar cane. I had always assumed ribbon cane to be native to the region, but I think it originated in South Asia, and was brought to the New World by Columbus!

    Regardless it was wonderful, refreshing treat on hot summer days. A 5-foot stalk of ribbon cane, an inch or so in diameter, would provide sweet juicy refreshment for several thirty boys. With a knife you’d peel away the tough, woody cover of the stalk of a couple of inches, cut it off and pop in your mouth to be sucked on and chewed (without swallowing the woody, stringy pulp which was left!) to get all the sweet juice hiding there. It was a close relative of bamboo, and unsurprisingly had a consistency like those shoots, except inedible.

    Blackberries were the most commonly encountered Alabama wild fruit, but probably the most dangerous to gather (along with ribbon cane), since the close-growing thorny bushes often were spots which poisonous snakes loved to hang out in.

    I can’t close without a word about Polk Salad (also known as “polk salad”, “poke salad”, “poke salat”, “pokeweed”, etc). This is a tall, green stalk-like plant with many large green leaves when young, which turn deep red when fully matured. It is an extremely colorful plant which grows almost anywhere in the South, even in urban areas like alleyways and untended lots. The plant produces numerous clusters of small indigo-colored berries, which when burst produce a deep-purple juice that stains the skin for days and clothing virtually forever.

    Polk Salad gained a reputation in the Great Depression as the food of the poorest of the poor in the South. And so it is, for only those who have no other option will run the risk of eating its poisonous leaves (thus the “polk salat” or “salad”). Every part of the pokeweed is poisonous, but the leaves can be made tolerably edible if they are cooked at least twice, three times optimally, and discarding the cooking water each time. Presumably the last cooking includes “white meat”, which would result in cooked green resembling, at least in appearance, turnip or collard greens.

  25. .) This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  26. Ah, I’m got fond memories of pickin’ and eatin’ wild and cultivated scuppernongs in the town of Niceville, FL where I grew up. My dad and I would ride bikes around the neighborhoods in Bluewater and he’d point out the wild vines and we’d stop and eat a few and them move on. Or, I’d go to my great-grandmother’s house next to Boggy Bayou where she had a scuppernong vine growing in her yard. It was always a rush to pick the ripe ones before the birds and squirrels would get to them. I’m now in Tampa, but I can still find some them in the grocery store starting each August (just finished off a handful from my first bunch of the year). Though, these cultivated grapes are not nearly as sweet, nor are their skins nearly as thin, as the ones I grew up eating.

  27. I just spent the weekend in South Alabama and Northwest FL…and gave my 13 year old daughter a lesson in Scuppernongs. We came home with 4 gallons of delicious fruit. Now I will be making my first batch of scuppernong wine.

  28. Sorry folks, there ain’t no hillbillys down here in the South. Got some rednecks and other types, but ain’t seen no hillbillys!

  29. I live in central Georgia and have three 30ft. rows(vines) with 3 different varieties. They are all loaded this season. In fact I’m eating them as I write this. Around here they are often called “scupplins”.

  30. I have a friend who says that scuppernongs can be purchased at some market up in the Hudson River Valley near Peekskill. Anyone interested, I will find out just where.

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