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Long before the first Europeans stepped off the ship, Native Americans were making
dumplings, raisins, drinks and poultices with the large, sweet bunches of grapes called "Cherokee muscadines."
In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator who explored the Cape Fear River valley for France, first spotted muscadine grapes in North Carolina. He wrote in his logbook that he saw "many vines growing naturally there."
Science is discovering what the Native Americans knew all along. European explorers to the New World first gazed upon their plump, juicy fullness in 1584. Sir Walter Raleigh's voyagers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe exclaimed that North Carolina was "so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them...in all the world the like abundance is not to be found."
Sir Walter Raleigh was so impressed with the muscadine and its white grape variety, scuppernongs, that he legendarily sent a keg of scuppernong wine to Queen Elizabeth I. The 400-year old Mother Vine on Roanoke Island is a popular tourist attraction today, and continues to produce robust, delicious fruit.
The muscadine variety of scuppernong grapes is North Carolina's state fruit, a testimony to the growing acknowledgement of the muscadine's importance in both commerce and nutrition. North Carolina Department of Agriculture officials report over 400 individually owned vineyards and 89 wineries in the state. 127 commercial muscadine or scuppernong growers operate in 55 counties, spanning more than 1,174 acres.
And the Native Americans were right. Science is discovering that the muscadine is loaded with powerful antioxidants to protect our health.