I was born and raised here in Alabama, but truth be told, I'd never eaten a muscadine grape until 2 years ago. And older Southern ladies everywhere would probably say, "Bless her heart!" (And if you know any older Southern women, that isn't necessarily a good thing.)

Since we were blessed to gain access to a small muscadine vineyard a couple of years ago, I'm now learning all about the versatile muscadine grape. Muscadine grapes grow wild in the southeastern United States, thriving on our hot summer weather and providing an amazingly disease-resistant, low-fuss bounty of large, juicy grapes in late August through about mid-September. Plus, muscadines are extremely nutritious, providing more antioxidants than most any other fruit. They even have an extra pair of chromosomes, compared to other grapes, basically making them "mutant" grapes. (And considering their huge size and extra thick skins, that isn't that hard to believe.)

This is the first year that we've really been able to harvest a substantial amount of muscadines - in years past, the deer have pretty much had free reign during the week to have their fill of this tasty treat. This year, Brent found and installed an all-natural deer fence, which is basically a 1-inch wide ribbon of nylon fabric tied to stakes around the vineyard which you then coat in an herbal mixture that repel the deer. And it works, too - the grapes were basically untouched, when normally the deer would have made quick work of them, somehow perfectly picking off the ripe grapes in the dark of night. As September winds down, so is the muscadine harvest, but our freezer - normally full of deer meat - is now plumb full of gallon Ziploc bags of muscadines and their golden cousins, traditionally known as "scuppernogs".

That being said, I've got big plans for all these muscadines, with some more posts coming later. Muscadine juice, muscadine wine, muscadine jelly, muscadine jam, muscadine pie filling, and - if I get really adventurous - possibly muscadine "fruit leather" (think homemade fruit roll-ups).

What's your favorite way to enjoy muscadines? Straight off the vine or cooked down in jams, jellies, and more? Any must-try recipes out there?