Friday, July 27, 2018

Muscat, Muscadine, Mustang

Until recently I thought muscat, muscadine and mustang all referred to the same type of wild grape. It turns out I was sorely mistaken. I helped a fellow resident pick wild grapes from my vines so she could make some ice cream from them for our city's ice cream social earlier this month. While she was was researching recipes she asked me if muscadine and mustang grapes were the same thing. At the time I thought so but based on the resources she found, I began to question if that was correct. While not part of our discussion, I thought I remembered muscat being used as a short version of muscadine and I decided I should look into that too.

Mustang versus Muscadine: Both grapes are native to the Southern United States with quite a bit of overlap in their native ranges. Mustang grapes are purple as well as some varieties of muscadine. Both grapes mature into large vines that climb trees or any other object near them and are drought tolerant and have low chilling requirements. There are noticeable differences between them however. Mustang grapes mature earlier. They are much more acidic. When I eat fresh mustang grapes off the vine, I squirt the gelatinous inner flesh into my mouth and discard the skins because of the reaction I had from eating the whole grape. The skins have a complex flavor when cooked however and contain a lot of pectin. The ice cream my friend made from the cooked skins was yummy. And beware, neither type is seedless. Compared to mustang grapes, muscadine grapes are sweet. They are used to make wine, jams and jellies. Mustang grapes can also be used in the same way, however the flavor profiles are very different. You can also tell the two grapes apart from their leaves. Mustang leaves are fuzzy on both sides and the bottom of their leaves are whitish. Muscadine leaves have little or no fuzziness. The first photo in this post is of a young section of mustang vine when the leaves are fuzziest and often three lobed. As they mature the leaves lose some fuzziness and their lobes as seen in the second photo along with some ripe fruit.

As for muscat grapes. They are an old world family of grapes not to be confused with our native North American muscadine and mustang grapes.

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