Ol’ Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon once searched Florida in vain, they say, for the elusive fountain of youth. He should have come to North Carolina, where he could have discovered the next best thing, an elixir that makes the heart merry and the soul soar.
The mighty muscadine, a grape from Down East that produces superior juice, jelly and wine, did not get named the official state fruit of North Carolina for no reason. It’s powerful sweetness has long been exhilarating, and in recent times its rich antioxidants have been intriguing in the campaign to thwart cancer, heart disease and other ills.
And now young students just may be about to get a lesson in the mighty muscadine. There’s a bill in the General Assembly that would require schools to stock muscadine grape juice in cafeterias and vending machines. Wilkes County teacher Jeffrey Elmore is one of four primary N.C. House sponsors of the proposed legislation, HB 136.
Muscadine juice is pricey and hard to find in stores. But if they can get it stocked in schools, I just might try to go back.
Every legislative session has these types of odd, quirky bills that leave some folks scratching their heads. But I think Elmore and company just might have something here.
Muscadine juice has a light, sweet, unique taste that separates it from Welch’s and the like. You may think that they add sugar to make it taste so good but they don’t.
But beyond the uncommon flavor, muscadines are “an emerging nutrition superstar,” according to M.D. News magazine. When bottled-water magnate Jerry W. Smith sought relief from high cholesterol, he liked muscadines so much that he put out a juice product and built a factory in Mocksville to produce dietary supplement products. Researchers at Wake Forest University are looking into the health benefits.
There are obvious reasons for pushing the mighty muscadine in North Carolina. The school muscadine juice bill’s lead sponsor is from Mocksville, by the way.
Normally I don’t go for using the government to push a business or product. But North Carolina and the rest of the South has something really good and beneficial here in the mighty muscadine, and that should be shared.
“When I mention them to friends and colleagues who grew up outside the South,” National Public Radio editor and native North Carolinian Tanya Ballard Brown reported a few years ago, “I’m often met with puzzled looks.”
“There’s a cultural bias in Florida against muscadines,” Tampa muscadine grower Tom Hughes told The Orlando Sentinel newspaper. “Southerners love the muscadines, but we’ve got such an influx of Northerners who are so used to Concord and other bunch grapes, they don’t know what to think of the muscadines.”
So if somehow they can get our school kids to liking and drinking muscadine juice, in a generation or two we just might give Welch’s up North a run for its money.