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Grape Expectations: New Muscadine Will Offer
Improved Flavor, Health Benefits By
Jim Core April
For those who love the unique flavor of muscadine grapes, there's good
J. Stringer, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist at the
Horticultural Laboratory in Poplarville, Miss., is working toward
developing new, healthful cultivars of this natural treat.
Growing wild from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico, and as far west as
Missouri to Texas, muscadines come in varying shapes, sizes and colors. Most
wild types have a thick, tough skin and a pulp that yields less juice than
other grapes. Their aroma is often described as slightly musky.
Muscadines are grown commercially in the southeastern United States,
where they are often called scuppernongs and are used primarily in juices,
wines, jellies and preserves. They are valued for their high yields (8 to 12
tons of grapes per acre) and for resistance to pests such as phylloxera and
nematodes, fungal diseases, and the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease.
Stringer is breeding cultivars with thinner skins, a crisp and melting
flesh, high sugar content and increased concentrations of nutraceuticals,
specific chemical compounds found in foods that may prevent disease.
Muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifloia Michx) are extremely high
in total phenolic content. Phenolic compounds have antioxidant,
anti-inflammatory and anticlotting properties that may translate to
cardiovascular health benefits. Muscadines contain other beneficial compounds,
such as gallic acid and ellagic acid, not commonly found in high concentrations
in other grape species.
Stringer is working toward a joint release later this year, with the
University of Florida, of a new fresh-market
muscadine grape cultivar that offers excellent flavor, high yield potential and
extraordinarily high concentrations of ellagic acid. Other advanced lines with
high concentrations of total phenolics are showing promise for release in the
Stringer is also looking at production practices, such as determining
the efficiency of growth regulators to develop bigger and seedless varieties of
about this research in the April 2006 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.