By Candice Dyer
Sweet but tough muscadines flourish on the island
Grapevines around Jekyll produce a lot of grapes, even if they’re the not-so tender kind.
“Muscadines are not the grapes you buy in the grocery store,” says Guy Yank” Moore, Conservation Land Manager for the Jekyll Island Authority. “They have a thick, fleshy outer shell.”
They’re irresistibly sweet. The grapes themselves are purple, and their leaves turn red late in the year. “Their red color makes them part of our fall foliage,” Moore says. “People can pick (the grapes) and eat them from the vine.”
Muscadines are native to this part of the country and have been for centuries. The University of Georgia operates the oldest breeding program for muscadines in the country. Established in 1909, it aims to lengthen the harvest time and make those skins a little less chewy.
Muscadine seeds are spread throughout Jekyll by the animals who eat the berries. The grapes begin to appear in mid-summer before turning up in homemade jams, jellies, and wine. The grapes begin to appear in mid-summer before turning up in homemade jams, jellies, and wine. The muscadine species boasts more than 100 varieties, several of which are found on Jekyll. “They are all over the island,” Moore says.
They’ve been around a long time, too. Some of Jekyll’s muscadine vines are so old that they’re a whopping 10 inches in diameter. “They’re like a tree,” Moore says. “It may have taken 100 years for them to get that big.”