5 things to know about Georgia’s official state grape

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As of New Year's Day, there will be an official state grape of Georgia: the muscadine. Muscadine grapes are native to the Southeast and are the only kind of grape will grow in our hot and humid climate. The peach is Georgia's official state fruit. The Vidalia onion is the state's official vegetable. Georgia also has an official manufactured food - grits. Enjoy them plain, with cheese or with shrimp

Georgia has a few state foods. The peach, we all know, is the official state fruit, and the Vidalia onion is the official state vegetable.

On Friday, January 1, we will also have a state grape. When SB 358 goes into effect on New Year’s Day, the muscadine will be the official state grape of Georgia.

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You can’t get the grapes right now — Georgia’s season is July 1 through Oct. 31 — but you can brush up on your muscadine knowledge in the meantime.

Here are some things to know about Georgia’s official state grape:

Native to the South

Although most grapes flourish in a cool, dry climate, muscadines love to be where it’s hot and humid. Sound like someplace you know?

According to the Vintner Project, muscadine grapes are found throughout the South. “In fact, it is the only grape variety that can actually grow in this climate,” it wrote on its website. “However, the grape is quite adaptable — it is found as far north as Delaware, which is much cooler; and as far west as Texas, which is significantly drier.”

Produced America’s first wine

According to both Eater and the Vintner Project, the first wine made in what is now the United States was from muscadine grapes.

“When Spanish and French explorers settled America, it was literally overrun with another type of vine, which came to be known as Vitis rotundifolia, or Muscadine,” the Vintner Project wrote. “Needing wine to deal with the hardships of living in a new world, and also for carrying out religious ceremonies, Muscadine was cultivated for wine production as early as the mid 1500s in Florida.”

According to Eater, it was French Huguenots in Jacksonville, Florida, who made America’s first wine in 1562, using the Scuppernong variety of muscadine.

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Highest polyphenol content

Polyphenols are reducing agents, and, together with antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids, protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress and associated pathologies such as cancers, coronary heart disease and inflammation.

Polyphenols are found in the grape’s skin and in significantly higher amounts in its seeds.

Resistant to pests and disease

Although Vitis vinifera grapevines can fall prey to a tiny insect that feeds off the plant and introduces fatal fungal infections, the muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) has adapted to produce a sticky residue that not only protects it from most environmental microbes, but also acts as a natural repellent to pests.

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There are hundreds of varieties

There are more than 300 strains of muscadine that have been either cultivated or bred for commercial use, and many of those come from the University of Georgia.

The University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has a muscadine grape team, led by horticulture professor Patrick J. Conner. In May, the team announce a new red variety of muscadine called RubyCrisp.

“The unusual red color of this berry really makes it stand out,” Conner told CAES News. “But the tender skin and crisp flesh of this variety are what truly make it unique. The texture of this variety is a marked change from traditional muscadines, which are often known for having tough skins and a soft pulp.”

Although the RubyCrisp is not a good berry for commercial production — it often cracks with rough handling — its vines can flourish in the backyards of at-home cultivators.