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Enjoying muscadine picking and sipping

October 14, 2016 • The News & Observer


The thing about muscadine grapes is that they just smell so good.

When you hold a handful of fresh muscadines in your hands and breathe deep, it’s like inhaling summer itself, all the bright, hot sunny afternoons, all the rain-washed twilights, all the vitality and endlessness of the season condensed.

But then, you bite into the little globular fruit, and meet with resistance: How do you get past that tough, leathery skin?

Despite a lifetime of exposure to the South’s native grape, I’ve never been able to truly develop a passion for eating them due to the skin’s texture and the pebbly seeds. The spectacle and inconvenience of working the natural wrapping away from the pulp then ferreting out the seeds just turns me off. It’s unusual for me because I normally don’t shy away from full-contact foods. Watermelon slices? I’ll dive in. Boiled peanuts? Just pass the discard cup and the paper napkins. Oysters, blue crabs, crawfish? I’ll bring the Tabasco and the extra wet wipes.

I contemplated this as I filled buckets full of muscadines recently at Baker Family Vineyard in Zebulon. The vineyard owners had graciously donated all the ripe grapes that volunteers could pick to the Inter Faith Food Shuttle, and a group of us had come from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh to glean the vines. Seduced by their scent, I tried to eat a few of the grapes, but remained frustrated by the experience. I comforted myself with the thought of indulging in a glass of muscadine wine later, my thirst fueled by the perfumed air of the vineyards.

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