Sunday, May 25, 2014

Muscadine Grape in the Tropics

                                                                                                 Clemson Extension

The Muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) is an interesting fruit, native to the Southeastern United States. These grapes were discovered by the early colonists and have been cultivated ever since. The Native Americans preserved muscadines as dried fruit long before the Europeans came to the continent. As early as 1565, Captain John Hawkins reported that the Spanish settlements in Florida made large quantities of muscadine wine. 

Muscadines are vigorous, deciduous vines growing 60-100 ft. in the wild. As with all grapes, muscadines need full sun with good air circulation. They will grow satisfactorily in California and the warmer regions of Oregon and Washington.

Compared to other grapes, they are relatively tolerant to diseases, and therefore, a favorite of backyard growers since minimal spraying is required.  Fresh Muscadine grapes are good to eat but are seedy with a somewhat tough skin. They are best when made into jellies, jams and juices. The grapes also make an excellent dessert wine with a flavor reminiscent of muscat wines. 

The muscadine grape has a low chilling requirement, 200 to 600 hours. Even so, fruit production in tropical regions, except perhaps at higher elevations, will be low. 

Note: the chilling requirement is the number of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit; this is the number that must be met in order to produce a reasonable crop.