Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chris Smith's Blog - The Big Read

September 8, 2008

While on Hurricane Hiatus – Discovering the Scuppernong

While evacuated to Monroeville to avoid Hurricane Gustav, I was “forced” to try several of the local delicacies – caramel cake, chocolate pie, and one of the foods mentioned in To Kill A Mockingbird that I did not comprehend – the scuppernong. We found them in all the grocery stores.

A scuppernong is a large type of grape that is native to the Southeastern United States. It’s named after the Scuppernong River in North Carolina, where it was originally cultivated in the 17th century. In fact, the scuppernong is the state fruit of North Carolina.

Some history: The earliest written account of the scuppernong occurs in the logbook of Giovanni de Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator who explored the Cape Fear River Valley for France in 1524. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers wrote that the coast f 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.”

The scuppernong is a member of the muscadine family of grapes. When ripe, it has a greenish or bronze color. The grape has four parts: the outer skin; the pulp or “meat”; the seeds; and juice. The skin is very thick and tart. The pulp is sweet. Each grape has several small green seeds. The most desired part of the scuppernong is the sweet juice that lies underneath its skin.

Scuppernong grapes contain roughly 95-100 calories per cup. Scuppernongs are high in Vitamin C and contain potassium, vitamin B, and trace minerals. They are low in sodium and have no fat and cholesterol.

Besides To Kill A Mockingbird, scuppernongs figure prominently in William Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom!

When I saw the package labeled “scuppernong,” I knew I had to try them. The skin is tough to negotiate – most people peel it away, then dig out the seeds, and go straight for the meat. I thought the meat would be sour, but it surprised me. It is sweet and quite tasty. People in the area make scuppernong pies. In fact, we entertained the idea of making one of these pies ourselves, but the time had come to return to New Orleans and the task of cleaning up.

If I had been thinking, I would have brought back a few packages in one of the many coolers I had lugged along for the evacuation.