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Muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia, is a grapevine species native to the south of North America that has been extensively cultivated since the 16th century. Its natural range is recognized in the following states of the US: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The plants are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.
Muscadine berries range from bronze to dark purple to black in color when ripe. However, many wild varieties stay green through maturity. They have skin sufficiently tough that eating the raw fruit often involves biting a small hole in the skin to suck out the pulp inside. Muscadines are not only eaten fresh, but also are used in making wine, juice, and jelly.
Muscadine grapes are rich sources of polyphenols and other nutrients studied for their potential health benefits. Gallic acid, (+)-catechin and epicatechin are the major phenolics in seeds, while ellagic acid, myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, and trans-resveratrol are the major phenolics in the skins.
Although in the same genus Vitis with the other grapevine species, muscadines belong to a separate subgenus, Muscadinia (the other grapevine species belong to subgenus Vitis), and some have suggested giving it standing as a genus of its own. Some taxonomists have also suggested splitting two additional species off from Vitis rotundifolia, Vitis munsoniana and Vitis popenoei. All have 40 chromosomes, rather than 38, are generally not cross-compatibile with other Vitis species, and most hybrids between the subgenera are sterile. A few, however, are at least moderately fertile, and have been used in breeding.
Unlike most cultivated grapevines, many muscadine cultivars are pistillate, requiring a pollenizer to set fruit. A few, however, such as 'Carlos' and 'Noble', are perfect-flowered, produce fruit with their own pollen, and may also pollinate pistillate cultivars.
Cultivars include Black Beauty, Carlos, Cowart, Flowers, Fry, Granny Val, Ison, James, Jumbo, Magnolia, Memory (first found on T.S. Memory's farm in 1868 in Whiteville, NC), Mish, Nesbitt, Scuppernong, Summit, Supreme, Thomas, Produced by the University of Florida, the cultivar, 'Southern Home', contains both muscadine and subgenus Vitis in its background.
Crops can be started in 3–5 years. Commercial yields of 20–45 tonnes per hectare (8–18 tons per acre) are possible. Muscadines grow best in fertile sandy loam and alluvial soils. They grow wild in well-drained bottom lands that are not subject to extended drought or waterlogging. They are also resistant to pests and diseases, including Pierce's disease, which can destroy other grape species. Muscadine is one of the grape species most resistant to Phylloxera, an insect that can kill roots of grapevines.
Muscadines have been used for making commercial fine wines and port wines dating back to the 16th century in and around St. Augustine, Florida. Today, vineyards throughout the Southeast produce muscadine wines of various qualities.
The typical muscadine wine is sweet because vintners traditionally add sugar during the winemaking process; the wine is often considered a dessert wine although some drier varieties exist. The term scuppernong refers to a large bronze type of muscadine originally grown in North Carolina; it is also used in making wine, principally dry red table wine.
Other traditional Southern U.S. muscadine-derived food products are readily available: jelly, preserves, syrup, and sauce. The fresh grape is available in season, September and October. The juice is available, white and colored. Raisins are used to make the wine (scuppernong), but are not generally available. Mississippi State University produces and sells Muscadine Ripple ice cream at the MAFES Sales Store.
As muscadine grapes are notable for their highly pigmented, thick skins in which the content of polyphenols is known to be high, research interest in describing these phytochemicals is significant.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol produced by many plants (including grapes) as a natural antifungal, and is widely thought to be health-promoting. Red wine typically contains between 0.2 and 5.8 mg/L, depending on a range of factors, while white wine has much less. This is because most of the resveratrol in grapes is located in the skin of the grape, and red wine is fermented with the skins of the grape included, allowing the wine to absorb it; by contrast, white wine is fermented after the skins have been removed. One early report had indicated that muscadine grapes contained high concentrations of resveratrol, but subsequent studies have found no or little resveratrol in muscadine grapes. It appears that the initial report overestimated the amount of resveratrol because it relied on a less precise method, which could not distinguish resveratrol from ellagic acid, another polyphenol found in higher concentration in muscadine grapes.
The rank order of total phenolic content among muscadine components was found to be seeds >> skins > leaves >> pulp.
A Mississippi State University nutritionist reported that a purée of muscadine skins and pulp is an excellent source of dietary fiber, essential minerals and carbohydrates and is low in fat. Muscadine purée powder has more dietary fiber than oat or rice bran.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, 50 adults with coronary disease or ≥1 cardiac risk factor received muscadine grape seed supplementation (1300 mg daily) and placebo for 4 weeks. There was no statistically significant increase in brachial flow-mediated vasodilation or a significant change in other biomarkers of inflammation, lipid peroxidation, or antioxidant capacity. However there was a significant increase in resting brachial artery diameter. The clinical significance of this is not clear.
As one of nature's richest sources of polyphenolic antioxidants, muscadines have been studied for their potential health benefits which include preliminary evidence for effects against cancer mechanisms. To date, in vitro studies have shown positive effects of muscadine phenolics against blood, colon and prostate cancers.
100g of muscadine grapes contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA:
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