Muscadine grapes were planted at Deep Spring Farm in February 2017 with intention for future U pick. The vineyard, as is all food produced at the farm, is 100% organic and free from synthetic chemicals. The grapes begin to ripen in mid August and harvest wraps up about the first week of September. Email subscribers are notified when picking is available. Picking grapes is easy. The ripe grapes are soft and give when squeezed. If the grape is hard, it is not ready.
Vine productivity increases with age and the hope was to have a good amount of grapes to offer for U pick by 2020. In August 2020, there were lots of grapes, but every day, birds pecked and squirrels nibbled. At night, nocturnal mammals, including raccoons, possums, and deer ate their fill.
August 2021, protective measures were taken to exclude the grape eating wildlife. Bird netting and electric fencing was installed to protect two out of three rows of vines. The exclusion measures are costly, labor intensive and inconvenient, as they keep people out as well as nocturnals (mostly). In the end, the measures saved about 50% of the crop for humans to harvest. Wildlife consumed all the grapes that were not protected. Success: Farm supporters (email subscribers) were invited to U pick grapes on Labor Day 2021.
Growing grapes is labor intensive as they need extensive pruning annually. Other tasks include vine training, weeding by hand, weedeating, mulching, irrigating, fertilizing. Early in the year, during late winter and early spring when vines are being pruned, cut vines are available for craft projects. 2021 was the first year that the farm hosted a grapevine wreath and basket weaving workshop.
The muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia Michx.) is native to the southeastern United States. Fully ripe gives the sweetest flavor. The whole fruit is edible, even the nutrient packed seeds, but it is common practice to spit out the few seeds, which are bitter, and skin if unpalatable.
Based on research, we selected three varieties for their superlative flavor and productivity: Fry, Southern Home, Supreme.
- Supreme is a strikingly beautiful large red/purple grape. It is called a black grape. It is favored for fresh eating with edible skin, 22% sugar, and long shelf life.
- Fry is a mid-late season bronze grape that produces large fruit at 21% sugar. The grape is excellent for fresh eating with edible skin.
- Southern Home is a smaller deep purple black grape. Being a hybrid variety of muscadine and bunch grapes, the flavor is mellower. At 18% sugar, it is excellent for fresh eating as well as juice and wine.
With community support, additional varieties of grape vines will be established for your dining and drinking pleasure.