opinion on muscadine varieties

mennomom(z7 NC foothills)February 12, 2007

I would like to plant muscadines and have narrowed the varieties down to these five: Darlene, Supreme, Sugargate, Ison's, and Black Beauty. Does anyone have any experience or opinions on these varieties? I live in the upper piedmont of North Carolina, zone 7, about an hour northwest of Charlotte.

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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

I have an Ison's that produces and would recommend it to others. I've since ordered other varieties, but they're not in production yet, so can't compare. Would point out though that Ison's is self fertile, the other varieties you list are females that would require another vine like Ison's to get fruit. I eat them fresh off the vine, and make juice with the rest. They're a great source for ellagic acid and resveratol (much higher than other types of grapes).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 5:03PM
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Someone in your area growing these would be able to give the best evaluations. The U. of Arkansas did a trial in a zn 7 area from 1987-1998, that is probably the next best thing to look at.

Briefly, they found the following:

'Ison', "Yields for 'Ison' were usually low. Fruit quality was rated highly except for flavor. Fruit rots were observed but were not severe. Vine hardiness was the poorest of all entries tested, and by 1997, all vines had died from winter injury."

'Darlene', non-precocious fruiting tendency, but otherwise highly recommended.

'Black Beauty', excellent fruit quality, but not very hardy. Recommended for warmer sites.

'Supreme', not evaluated.

'Sugargate', top-rated for flavor, excellent disease resistance, above average hardiness, moderately productive.

See link below for a much more detailed account of the trial.

Here is a link that might be useful: Evaluation of Muscadine Cultivars

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 5:17PM
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Here is my 2ct worth after growing about 8 or 10 Ison muscadine varieties and a couple bunch grapes not requiring spraying. You may get a little production in the 2nd year but full max in 3-4 years. I like the bronze ones for fresh eating and the black ones for jelly. I think the best use for them is jelly. I like muscadine marmalaide including the skin the best. They don't taste as good as grocery store grapes to me and have large seeds of course. But I eat them anyway as I can't grow any grocery store grapes here near Houston due to pierce's disease. The taste of all I've tried is very, very similar, note I don't rate taste. Muscadines also require no sprays, another plus. Last year I had hundreds of pounds, enough that the birds couldn't eat them all, although the possums tried to. My vines are 4 or 5 years old.
Supreme(black female), nice large berries, vine not vigorous
Late fry(bronze self fertile) vigorous grower and producer of lots of berries
Pam(bronze female) average, berries small
Granny Val(bronze self fertile) not up to par, took it out.
Sweet Jenny(bronze female)not much production yet, don't remember much about this one
Ison(black self fertile) even ripening, not great for fresh eating
Darlene(bronze female) excellent for fresh eating, not too vigorous, thin edible skin my favorite bronze, dry scar
Black beauty(female), my favorite black one due to large and many berries, dry scar
Dixie Red(bronze self fert6ile) not really red, produced 2nd year, heavy producer but wet scar meaning skin pulls off when picked. I pulled this one up
Higgins, black, a loser, grapes ripen over a very long period.

Bunch grapes(not muscadines)
Mortenson bunch grape, a real loser but no pierce's disease. Produces big bunches of sour green grapes. Skin is really sour. Ripped it out already. Some nurseries in Houston continue to push this one. I don't know why! I think it is a hoax not worth growing.
Champanelle no spraying or pierce's disease but grapes never get sweet and are good only for jelly. Ripped this one out as well.
Plant any muscadine Ison's sells. They don't sell a bad one.
Plant just one: late fry self fertile
Plant two: late fry and darlene or black beauty
Plant three: late fry, darlene and black beauty.
Would like to try: pineapple
My plans after next year: keep the black beauty, darlene, supreme, maybe the sweet jenny if it proves itself, and late fry. Pull up the rest. I had planned from the beginning on keeping only about the 3 or 4 I liked best out of the 9 planted. I planted more to get more production sooner. I'll let the remaining vines grow to 30-40 feet long.

Here is a link that might be useful: muscadines

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 6:50PM
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mennomom(z7 NC foothills)

Thanks for the posts. So far I'm seeing Ison's as a possible problem for fresh eating, according to the U. of Arkansas and mrtexas, but Gene, you did not seem to have a problem with taste. Is that correct? They certainly look terrific in that picture. I could skip Ison's except it is the only pollinator on my list.

This I don't get - Edible Landscape lists Ison's as "probably the best muscadine grape available. Large black sweet fruit." Could their soil produce a different taste, I wonder? The same with Mortenson - Edible Landscaping says it is "the best grape to grow for great taste and large fruit in the southern U.S., including Houston... The fruit is tasty and sweet..." Is there a good explanation for this? Perhaps I should look at catalogs with a little more suspicion. Call me gullible.

My highest priority for the muscadines is fresh eating taste. I had bought some delicious sweet black muscadines at the grocery store the other year but I couldn't find out what variety they were, so I'm hoping one or more of these varieties will be just as good.

Gene - I glanced at your page, and that is an impressive list of fruit you have growing. What do you do with all those figs? I haven't tried figs yet but perhaps I will some day. Also, do you like that Chandler blueberry taste? I sure would like to grow a blueberry that size.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 10:16PM
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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

I'm a bit surprised at Arkansas rating Ison's low for hardiness and productivity, neither have been issues for my vine (which I got from Edible Landscaping). Perhaps it's due to differences in local soil and climate.

I like eating them fresh. The only fresh grapes I had growing up were those I picked off my grandmother's muscadine vine, so I'm quite used to eating them, hull and all. Ison's I find to be better tasting than what my grandmother had. I find store bought grapes like Thompson Seedless insipid -- just goes to show everyone has different tastes.

I would not be surprised that varieties like Supreme and Black Beauty may have better fresh eating qualities as their average brix level is listed as being higher. I'd suggest getting one Ison's and then as many of the other females as you have room for. You can reserve the Ison's for juice and jelly and the others for fresh eating.

My orchard was very recently established, so many things, including the blueberries, aren't in production yet. What figs the birds and squirrels are kind enough to leave me are eaten fresh.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 9:39AM
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I'd say the Mortenson grape is the best LOOKING grape you can grow for large fruit in the south. I'm not the only one I know who has pulled it up because the fruit is inedible fresh unless you squeeze out the middle and throw away the skin. IMHO Ison grape tasted worst out of the muscadines I have grown. It's easy to exaggerate when you are selling, especially something that won't bear for 3 years. Did you ever read the Oregon Exotics catalog? Best example of creative exaggeration(lies) I've ever seen in a garden catalog.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 9:08PM
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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

A hint for harvesting muscadines grapes: wait until they are fully colored, then wait again until AFTER they've lost their gloss and become dull. You'll get a much more flavorful fruit this way.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 2:28PM
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I was hoping to find out how to identify a plant prior to fruiting. I bought several plants at nursery closeout auction 2-3 years ago. They were unmarked but clearly muscadines. They are growing like crazy this year, but since they haven't fruited yet I don't know if they are self-pollinating or not. The plants are full of little bright green panicles this year. In previous years there were few panicles. I haven't seen any actual flowering yet.

If the plants are not self pollinating, should we just plant a self pollinating variety within the group or tear out and start over (less appealing!) The vines have grown along the top of a fence.

We'd use them most for fresh fruit eating.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2008 at 7:40PM
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I disagree with the opinion about several of the Ison's muscadines.First,the Higgins variety is not black and I certainly don't think it's a loser.It bears huge crops of large sweet muscadines.The Pam variety has large clusters and many of the grapes are the size of quarters.I have been growing muscadines for 30 years here in north Ga.I have had few vines die from cold even when it's dropped below 10 degrees.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 11:56AM
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Hi guys - ressurecting this thread cause it's good info! I also e mailed Mr. TExas...would love to hear updates! I just ordered 7 muscadines from Isons.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 11:34AM
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Living in N Florida Gulf coast, I have been growing muscadines for 6 years now. Higgins are my favorites. You need to let them ripen until the shine is gone as stated previously but they are delicious. I also hear that Sweet Jenny's are great. The Higgins give us plentiful harvest with 3 plants and we always prune them as suggested by growers. Quite severely in fact. The Higgins also are thick skin so many people pop the grapes from their skin, I prefer to eat the who grape excluding the seeds.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 3:33PM
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Beware. If you plan to order from Isons. My whole blackberry patch is now
contaminated for 5 years with crown gall, had to destroy all plants and a
wine grower here with like 200 plants has crown gall on all the plants from
Isons. If you do order from them get a signed certificate they have been inspected for crown gall and certify crown gall free plants such as tissue cultures berries

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:31AM
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Why is one man's treasured named muscadine...another man's trashy named muscadine? One possible reason: Grapevine buyers assume that the labels are accurate. Don't bet the plowing mule that they will be.Another possible reason: Just like one kid in a family is tall and slim, his brother may be short and fat. Grapevines are on a long genetic leash. Last guess: Everything surrounding the vine causes the vine to become different. Soil...temps...moisture...light...etc.......

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:41PM
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I am a big fan of Noble. It is so rich in anti-oxidants. Makes a great rich wine. More cold tolerant than most.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fruit links

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:06PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

Regarding Edible Landscaping, a company from which I've bought a number of plants over the years, I think you must prefix any description of a plant's flavor with words along the following lines: "Of plants that can be grown in the humid mid-Atlantic along organic lines with minimal attention to disease and pest control, variety X tastes ..." This nursery is pretty much concerned to provide relatively trouble free varieties for the backyard grower, not to provide the best tasting varieties. This does not mean that they don't sell excellent tasting fruit; for many things, like figs and persimmons, they do. But for other things -- say, apples -- ease of growing trumps other factors and the varieties they sell are not the best (or necessarily the worst) tasting varieties.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:49PM
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I agree whole heartedly with austransplant. We should make disease resistance as big a factor in recommendations as taste. Nutrient levels should also be a big factor. Fortunately, our lab tests for nutrient levels of Muscadines has improved markedly over the last several years. We now know that Muscadine skin has no resveratrol. It is all in the seed. It is not clear if any of the grapes that are disease resistant in warm humid climates has high resveratrol. There are not enough published test results out there yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fruit links

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 8:56AM
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