The muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia (or alternatively, Muscadiniana rotundifolia) is native to the southeastern United States. Muscadines can be found growing wild and have been cultivated for hundreds of years by the South’s farmers and gardeners..
The muscadine grape differs from other grapes in several ways:
- Thick skins of the grapes. This thick skin gives muscadine grapes a natural resistance to disease, fungi, and insects, and is where much of the antioxidant power of the muscadine grape is stored. These thick skins account for 40% of the weight of the grape.
- Genetics. Muscadine grapes have 40 chromosomes, rather than the 38 found in other grapes. This makes it very difficult to cross muscadines with other grapes (though some hybrids are now available). Their special genetic make-up includes genes that give them their distinctive flavor and aroma, thicker skins, pest-and disease resistance, and unique balance of phytonutrients
- Appearance of the vines. Muscadines have a rounded leaf shape (hence rotundifolia) rather than the indented leaves of other grape species
- Disease and pest resistance. Native to the Southeast, these grapes grow well on their own with few pest and disease problems, making them great for home gardeners. They are resistant to Pierce’s disease, a major problem with other grapes.
- Health benefits. Muscadines really pack a punch nutritionally! Muscadine grape have significantly more antioxidant power than other grapes — especially the dark skinned ones. Based on the ORAC standard measurement, muscadine grapes have been measured as high as 6,800 per 100 grams, compared to 739 for red grapes. Muscadine grape skins alone have about 6-8 times as much antioxidant capacity as whole blueberries.