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Autumn jewels
Sweet fruits with funny names are here for a juicy treat
muscadine
Muscadines and scuppernongs belong to the grape family and are native to the South. They have a tough skin and sweet, juicy inside.

0910MuscadineAUD

Angel Rushing describes how to eat a muscadine.

Deep purple and light green jewels are now popping up around local farmers markets.

These spherical fruits are known by many different names, but you probably know them as muscadines and scuppernongs. And if you're not from the South, you may not have heard of them at all.

From the grape family, they are great for making wine. But there are many other ways to enjoy the fruit, which is larger than most grapes and has a different texture.

"The muscadine (and scuppernong) are going to be the same - it pops out just like a concord grape," said Angel Rushing of Shook's Fresh Produce. "My mom makes jelly from muscadines and she also juices them and doesn't add any sugar to them or anything. We drink it just like grape juice through the winter, and it's real good for upset stomach."

Shook's Fresh Produce, located in Cleveland, sets up each Tuesday and Saturday at the Hall County Farmers Market. Rushing, the daughter of farm owners Michael and Thelma Shook, said muscadines and scuppernongs are just coming into season.

The fruits consist of four parts: the outer skin or hull, the pulp or meat, seeds and juice.

"I throw the skin and the seed out but some people don't," Rushing said.

Scuppernong skin is thick and tart, the seeds are bitter and the most desired part of the fruit is the sweet juice inside. Muscadines aren't quite as tough or bitter, but they have to be dissected the same way.

"There is a difference in flavor," Rushing said. "The texture is going to be the same but a muscadine has more of a tang to it. They are both sweet ... It's pleasant."

Lee Lawson, another vendor at the Hall County Farmers Market, said his wife makes pies out of the fruit and the hulls.

"You can make jelly out of them, or just eat them, or make pies," said Lawson, a Gainesville resident. "That's what my wife does - she squeezes the inside out of the hull and then she'll put them on and cook them and then run them through a strainer to get the seeds out.

"We love a pie made out of the hulls, too. We make sure we wash them ... she usually will boil them some and cook them in a pie. You sweeten it just like with any pie."

Then there's Gainesville resident Linda Coleman, who said she started growing muscadines almost as a fluke. She makes holiday wreaths out of the vines, and she said about two years ago she was in the woods pulling up dried muscadine vines, and the whole plant came up.

"I picked what looked like a stump," she said. "In the winter I make wreaths out of muscadine vines. I kept pulling and pulling and that's what I planted in the front yard."

The result is a hearty vine the has given her fruit each year since, and she said she enjoys making jelly out of it.

"When you go to cook them, put them in a pot and cover them with water, and you take a potato masher and mash them down," Coleman said of making the base for her muscadine jelly. "You run it through a sieve and squeeze it through a cheese cloth."

Coleman uses blackberries and apples that grow down the street to make jelly, too. It's rewarding to be able to not only enjoy what you've made yourself, she said, but to also know from exactly where it all came.

"It's work, but it's fun at the same time," she said.

Kristen Morales contributed to this report

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