Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I HEART...Scuppernongs!

Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 
Fall.  Some people say it starts with the changing of the leaves.  Some believe it's the cooler nights.  Some actually have to wait for the autumnal equinox.  No "ifs, ands, or buts" for them.  But for our family, the first sign of fall is muscadines and scuppernongs.  I see some of you raising your eyebrows out there.  Maybe you don't believe me.  Maybe you just don't know what I'm talking about.  But it's true.  Fall means wild grapes!

Aren't they beautiful?!!
I remember my PawPaw bringing them to us when we were little.  He was always outside hunting or taking care of his cows.  He knew where to find the wild ones - vines just crawling up trees, hugging them for support under the weight of their golden treasure.  Those were usually smaller, but they had such a good, sweet taste.
Gerald absolutely loves them and looks forward to them almost as much as the start of the Alabama football season.  Luckily, they come pretty close together.  He tells me to start looking for them in the stores right after Labor Day.  Even if you can find them then, they're not ready.  He knows that, but he's like a kid in a candy shop.  The growers really know it's too soon too, but they want to be the first to get them out there for people to buy.  And we do.  We buy them and fuss about how under-ripe they we polish off each and every one.  Maybe the next ones will be better.  (Not that these are really bad!)
Since moving to the country, we have spent a good deal of time and money building arbors and planting our own vines.  Not a lot of success yet.  We really have them too far from the house to keep them watered well.  But we have hope that one day we'll have our own luscious fruit to pick.  In the meantime, Gerald growls each time I have him pull wild vines out of the trees.  They take over if you're not careful, you know.  He hates to do it.  Not sure if it's because he hates the work or if it's that the wild vines are mocking him...reminding him that they are prolific while his "store-bought" plants are struggling just to stay alive.  He actually got some fruit off these wild vines this year.  Not a lot, but enough to scratch the itch until we got sacks of the good stuff from friends and co-workers whose "single plant just took off against the side of the storage shed" in their backyard in the city.  A student even brought him some muscadine jelly that his grandmother made him.  If I make him biscuits, he might share a spoonful with me.

We had dinner guests last year who were from California and Ohio.  They had never heard of our native grapes.  Needless to say, they loved them.  We gave them the requisite instruction on how to eat them.  It can be a little precarious if you're new to it.  Just in case you yourself are a little unsure - here's a quick primer.  Muscadines are a native grape.  Muscadine is the general name for the fruit and what most people call any variety that is purple or red in color.  Scuppernong is the golden variety, but still a muscadine.  And they are my personal favorite!  You pick the grape (no need to wash it - Mother Nature doesn't use dangerous pesticides!), pop it in your mouth and bite down.  Wait for it...that delicious burst of juice!  Savor it.  Work it around a little on your tongue and then fish the seeds out of the middle, along with the tough skin.  Spit those out, then chew the inside up and swallow!  (Some people even eat the skins, but they can be tough.  Guess it depends on what you grew up doing.)  Now don't worry too much about manners.  Southern belles have been enjoying these for centuries - it can be done and still be a lady!
As I mentioned, they are native to the South, growing wild in the trees or planted by Southern gents in their well-tended arbors.  Our friends, Chad and Amy Ledbetter, have acres and acres planted and have made it their family business.  Here is a picture of their beautiful vineyard in Notasulga. 

You might still be able to find a few on the vine, although they're probably starting to go to sugar.  They'd still make good jelly, though!  Mummm, a delicious little bite of fall...
P.S. - I saw them in Publix yesterday, so I know they're still out there.  Get 'em while you can, y'all!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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