In the edge of an old garden spot near my home muscadine vines climb the towering trees in the edge of the woods. During an early morning walk today I noticed a bumper crop hanging from the towering trees.
This native grape is found all over the hills and hollows of Itawamba County. They are so plentiful, when the grapes ripen and fall from the towering trees over the highway, some sections of the roads are simply stained purple from the fruit.
Muscadines are an important part of the South’s culinary history. A native to the southeastern United States, muscadines have been cultivated for more than 400 years. During 1565, Captain John Hawkins reported the Spanish settlements in Florida made large quantities of muscadine wine and before 1760, the first recognized muscadine cultivar was found by Isaac Alexander in Tyrrell County, North Carolina. It was first known as the Big White Grape and was later renamed Scuppernong, after the area where it was found.
As a child growing up in the rural hills of Itawamba County, a popular annual event was muscadine hunting. The entire family would go into the Itawamba County woods with pails to find and harvest this delicious native grape. It was an exciting adventure for a young boy. After filling the pails, the grapes would be brought home from the woods for processing.
Within hours the whole house would be scented with the fruity aroma of muscadines being processed into jelly in the kitchen. And most always after a muscadine harvesting we would be treated with a special dessert after supper – Muscadine Cobbler made with nature’s bounty harvested earlier that day. There’s nothing better than a hot muscadine cobbler with a buttery crispy crust topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.