Flora Fridays – September 22, 2023
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Happy Flora Friday, Montgomery County! Early phenological signs of fall are among us – from the changing leaves of the Tupelo (Nyssa) to the blooming of goldenrod (Solidago). Fall is also a time of harvest for many local growers. What are you enjoying from your garden or forest this fall? Do you plan to sow greens for cool weather production? How are you enjoying the cooler weather outside?
Fall and spring are some of my favorite times to forage forest foods. As we approach the first frost, you are likely to come across the famous muscadine in fruit. Muscadine grapes (Vitis/Muscadina rotundifolia) are native to the southeast, a unique native fruit compared to the many table and wine grape species imported from Europe. In North Carolina, harvests typically occur September through October. Resources for growing muscadines at home and commercially can be found on the NC State Viticulture Website.
Muscadines in the wild typically produce fruits that are marble-sized, dark purple or black, and have tough skins and seeds similar to grape nuts. While the skin and seeds can be and often are discarded, the entire berry is edible. Be sure to wash wild fruits before consuming. They can then be stored in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
Commercial muscadine varieties, often sold at markets, are prized for their large size and seedless characteristics. Many of these varieties have skins that are more palatable than the wild type. These varieties can be dark purples to black in coloration, as well as golden and bronze varieties commonly referred to as scuppernongs. Muscadines purchased can be handled and stored similarly to wild types.
Want to get ahold of your own muscadines? In addition to market offerings, we have a few vineyards in our area with on-site u-pick and pre-pick options. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Love Joy Vineyards (Lovejoy) to harvest and sample their produce. One of the sweetest varieties owner Joe Thompson grows is a bronze variety called Frye. Other varieties grown are Summit, Tara, Carlos, Noble, Hunt, Hall, Ison, Black Beauty, and Supreme. Joe has informed me that he will be picking until first frost, or late October. For more information, you can call their info line at 919-614-6756, or visit the Love Joy Vineyard website. Happy picking! Thanks, Joe!
As a reminder, unknown plants and mushrooms should not be picked or consumed – it’s better to snap a picture if you are not sure. If you need support identifying a specimen please email me photo(s) and or call our office at 910 576 6011, I’d be happy to assist!
– Owen Washam