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Muscadines are ripe for the picking

Posted: August 17, 2014 - 12:02am
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Louis and Janice Newsome have opened up for muscadine/scuppernong picking at Blue House Farm in Harlem. Photo by Jim Blaylock
Louis and Janice Newsome have opened up for muscadine/scuppernong picking at Blue House Farm in Harlem. Photo by Jim Blaylock

Less than a month after closing down their U-pick blackberry and blueberry patches, Louis and Janice Newsome of Blue House Farm in Harlem have opened up their U-pick muscadine farm.

The Newsomes have more than 150 muscadine vines on their farm consisting of six different varieties. In addition to the 150 U-pick vines, they have another 40 or so that they use for pre-pick orders.

“We planted our first muscadines for personal use about 30 years ago,” said the Newsomes, adding that their varieties include two dark and four bronze. “The ones we pick orders from are 10-plus years old. Most of the vines for U-pick average about 3 years old.”

Although this is the first year the Newsomes will open to the public, they have been picking and selling muscadines themselves for several years.

“Muscadines are the native Southern grape,” they say. “They are different in that they have tough skins and all have seeds. The taste and sugar content varies a great deal from variety to variety. If you try a few, you’ll probably find one you like.”

Georgia Gardener Walter Reeves calls muscadines a fruit that “truly puts the South in your mouth. They were discovered here by the early settlers and have been a favorite fruit of Southerners since.”

Although available in grocery stores, muscadines are said to be enjoyed best when they are picked right off of the vine on a late summer or early autumn afternoon. They can also be processed into wine or jam.

“People commonly call the dark skinned grape muscadines and the light skinned ones scuppernongs,” said the Newsomes. “Actually, they are all muscadines. The original bronze variety was discovered in North Carolina near the Scuppernong River and that was how it was named.”

The name scuppernong, according to the Newsomes, is now commonly used for all bronze varieties even though few of them are actually scuppernong variety.

“In truth, no matter what you call them, most of us agree they taste good and are good for you and that’s what matters,” they said, adding that their U-pick muscadines are just $1 per pound.

The Newsomes anticipate their U-pick season to last for about six weeks, depending on the weather. Cooler weather could extend the season, while warmer weather may shorten it.

Blue House Farm is located on Old Blythe Road in Harlem. The farm is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Other hours are available by appointment. Call (706) 699-0762.

CORRECTION: An article in the Aug. 10 edition of the News-Times about a gardening study course being offered through the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs, misidentified Judy Kirkland and implied that the courses offered would be the same in each session.

Kirkland is the immediate past president of the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs. The current president is Betty Davis. Also, each session of the gardening study course will focus on a different topic. For more on session topics, visit www.augustacouncilgc.com. The News-Times regrets the errors.

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