The humble grape, consumed for centuries as a luxury by the rich and as a roadside fruit by the poor still reigns at the top of the healthy food chain.
It possesses more antioxidants than the highly advertised blueberry and even pomegranates. Tufts University and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) developed the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale. This scale measures the antioxidant power of each food rated.
The Muscadine grape measures a whopping 6,800 per 100 grams, while the pomegranate comes in second at 3,300 and the popular blueberry comes in third at 2,400. Red grapes come in at a paltry 739 per 100 grams. Cultivated in North America since the 15th century, this humble native plant has been feeding people healthy fruit since ancient times.
Not only are these grapes eaten as a delicacy, they are more commonly made into Muscadine wines which have their own distinct flavor. This article, however only deals with the health benefits of the grape itself.
Although technically a berry, they have been called grapes for centuries. I guess it’s too late to change their name.
The Benefits of Antioxidants
Nothing in writing can understate the value of antioxidants. They help to prevent cancer, atherosclerosis, brain dysfunction, cataracts, arthritis, birth defects and much, much more. They are also important in reducing the effects of pollutants, radiation, smoking and even the effects of aging.
The Muscadine grape has more antioxidants than any other grape.
The Benefits of Fiber
Muscadine grapes have more fiber than oats. Mostly this is due to the very thick skin, which also contains most of the antioxidants. It has natural resistance to fungi, bacteria and other diseases.
Fiber is essential for the protection of the colon and the entire digestive system.
The Muscadine in History
The famous explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh noted the abundance of the grapes in 1584 and received a letter in 1585 from Governor Ralph Lane with the statement:
“We have discovered … grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater…”
The colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with finding the “mother-vine” of the Muscadine. It exists to this day in Roanoke, Virginia with a trunk measuring 2 feet in thickness and the vines cover fully half an acre.
The Muscadine Today
Today there are many cultivars with grape colors ranging from green, bronze, black and purple. The range of this versatile plant extends from Southern New York to Florida, and west to the states of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. They need very few chill hours compared to other grape varieties in order to produce fruit, and absolutely seem to adore the heat and humidity of the Southern and Eastern United States.
These wonderful natives grow wild beside the road through out the South. While out travelling, pick a few dozen for your lunch or for a snack. Check with local ordinances first, though. You may need a permit or simply to knock on someone’s door to ask if you can pick a few. The vine may be growing in the ditch, but it’s a Southern courtesy to ask. You might just make a friend and be rewarded for your good manners with a jar of Muscadine jelly or wine.
This grape is being extensively studied to find out what other health benefits it offers. Keep on the lookout for more about this amazing tasty powerhouse.