Seven years ago, I married and moved with my husband to his home-town Tallahassee. Until then, I'd been a bit of a transatlantic nomad; my rather homogenized accent picked up and dumped flavor without loyalty. Shortly after I began work in my new town, a co-worker came into staff-meeting with a container full of mixed green and purple orbs the size of large "boulder" marbles. I inquired, and she replied in her slow, smoky drawl, "Skuffinnahves."
"Uh, ... what was that?"
Even as a fellow American, I was a foreigner as I encountered this new word and struggled to sort pronunciation from spelling. She invited me to try one. I selected a green one. My teeth sank through thick, tart, leathery skin into cool, gelatinous, grape-candy flesh and finally crushed astringent, slightly bitter seeds. As odd as it may sound to locals, I felt like I'd landed on the moon.
A mission to find more quickly turned up plenty of labeled containers of "Scuppernong" and "Muscadine" grapes. Scupp-er-nong. Skuffinnahves. Last night, after finding scuppernongs at New Leaf and remembering my introduction to the fruit, I asked Matt if he'd ever heard the word pronounced this way. No, he hadn't.
These fat grapes have a love-it-or-hate-it flavor often described as "musky" or "foxy." Some prefer to split the skins (which are thick and can be bracingly astringent) and eat only the clear, sweet pulp. Personally, I enjoy the contrasts of sour and sweet and leathery and slippery. The purple grapes (muscadines) are sweeter than the green, and they're best when they've ripened and softened slightly past their taut fullness. Muscadines are on my "sexy foods" list.
Scuppernongs grow wild in parts of the South. I remember seeing them hanging unripe from vines all around Tallulah Gorge near Atlanta. Do they also grow wild here? There is a vexing weed that grows here, that looks remarkably like the scuppernong vine but does not produce the fruit.
I found these suppernongs from Ladybird Organics/ Monticello Vinyards at New Leaf yesterday. New Leaf also sometimes carries the local farm's muscadine jelly, sunflower sprouts, and eggs.
I'm told that New Leaf carries Monticello Vinyard's muscadine wine for a day, or an hour -- blink and it's gone. One can also order it online from the Ladybird Organics/Monticello Vinyard's website. I vaguely remember hearing or reading that you can pick your own grapes there sometimes. The farm also boasts persimmons, pecans, satsumas, marsh grapefruit, meyer lemons, and microgreens. Visit the website for more information.