The muscadine grape was the first native grape species to be cultivated in North America. They are delicious eaten fresh, and are a popular grape in Florida wines. Although muscadine grapes have seeds, and thicker skins than common table grapes, they are larger, “grapier-tasting”, and, in my opinion, underappreciated in the fruit world. Muscadine grapes will be available this summer at groceries, farmers markets, and “you-picks”. Find Florida farms and wineries.
Grow your own
Muscadines’ cold-tolerant, pest-resistant vines make great backyard fruiting plants for Central Florida. Many muscadine varieties must be planted with pollinizer varieties to produce fruit. There are hundreds of muscadine grape varieties, with bronze, pink, purple, red, or black colored fruit. Self-fertile varieties do not need to cross-pollinate with other varieties, and often produce more fruit than non-self-fertile varieties. Self-fertile varieties that are good to eat fresh include: ‘Pineapple’ (bronze), ‘Polyanna’ (purple), ‘Southern Home’ (black). Varieties good for processing into juice, jelly or wine include: ‘Alachua’ (black), ‘Carlos’ (bronze), ‘Noble’ (red).
Muscadine vines are adaptable to many soil types, but must be planted in well-drained locations. Container-grown vines can be planted throughout the year with a support system, as the vines can grow quite large. For backyards, vines can be planted on a well-anchored arbor or a galvanized wire between posts. Prior to planting, test soil pH and nutrients. Grapes must be irrigated to become established and in dry periods during the growing season.
Pruning is done in January to keep vines productive and should be based on your support system. The fruit is borne on the current year’s growth. Vines flower in spring and fruit is harvested in the summer, depending on variety. You may want to consider using bird netting over vines when they are fruiting to prevent wildlife from eating more grapes than you. Fruit should be refrigerated after harvest and eaten or processed soon, as it has a shelf life of about a week.
In Osceola County, contact Extension for more information on varieties, plant sources and growing: 321-697-3000.