Georgia Magazine - September 2012 - (Page 60)

Memories of muscadines The grape of the South BY DEBORAH GEERING M any Southerners have a cherished childhood memory or two involving muscadines. But few can top the memories of the Isons. As the third generation of Ison’s Nursery & Vineyards, the four children of Bill and Leola Ison were put to work early. Back in the ’70s, in the late summer and early fall, when the large native grapes ripen, the children would get off the school bus on Ga. Highway 16 in Brooks and head directly to the family’s roadside farm stand. There, they’d join their mother and aunt Mildred Ison-Hoard selling Ison muscadines. “As soon as we were old enough to write, in the evenings Daddy would have us address catalogs at the dining room table,” remembers Janet IsonMcClure, sister of Greg Ison, Darlene Ison-Evans and Pam Ison-Duke. The best memories, though, are about eating muscadines. “There’s nothing better than the first fruit of the season,” says Ison-Evans. She and her siblings see it all the time: “People will put it in their mouth, they close their eyes, and it will be like they’re back at their grandmother’s house as a child. It’s truly a Southern treat.” There really is nothing else like a muscadine. Perfectly round, sometimes as big as ping-pong balls, in a mysterious range of colors from green-bronze to almost black, the fruit bursts in the mouth with a flavor that is sweet and tart, refreshing and earthy all at once. Muscadines are excellent eaten out of hand (though most folks spit out the skins and hard seeds, or take a little nibble to pierce the skin with their teeth and then squeeze the pulp into their mouths); pressed into juice; cooked into jellies, jams and sauces; or baked into pies COURTESY OF ISON’S NURSERY & VINEYARDS COURTESY OF ISON’S NURSERY & VINEYARDS At Ison’s Nursery & Vineyards in Brooks, the family grows 22 varieties of muscadines, ranging in color from green-bronze to almost black. and cobblers. As it turns out, they’re amazingly good for you too. Packed with flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds that help protect against cancer, the fruits were recently named on “The Dr. Oz Show” as a top cancerfighting food—causing a boom in sales for the nursery. Today, the Ison siblings run what they say is the larg- Siblings Janet Ison-McClure, Darlene Ison-Evans est and oldest grower of mus- and Greg Ison run the family farm in Brooks. cadine vines, helping to make Georgia the leading producer cob Paulk in the 1950s—with vine of muscadine fruit. Their father de- stock from Ison’s Nursery. Now, with veloped and patented more than 30 600 acres in production and three varieties of vines, which are sold to generations of Paulks in the business, both commercial and home growers. Paulk Vineyards is the world’s largest With 40 acres of vines in production, grower of the big grape. the company also sells a full line of Amid gently sloping land lined muscadine products as well as fresh with trellised vines as far as the fruit and juice to wineries and local eye can see, sits the huge, spotless grocery stores. steel building that houses the Paulk Most fresh muscadines sold in re- grape-processing operation. As the gional stores, however, come from an- just-picked fruit is unloaded from other Georgia family business. Paulk the vineyard, conveyor belts carry Vineyards in Wray was begun by Ja- it past sorters, who select the best More online at COURTESY OF ISON’S NURSERY & VINEYARDS 60 GEORGIA MAGAZINE

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - September 2012

Georgia Magazine - September 2012
Picture This?
Georgia News
Liberty Notes
Calendar of Events
Georgia's Energy Outlook
Dedicated to duty
Resolved, for good
The 2012 Washington Youth Tour
Focusing on the future
Around Georgia
My Georgia
Georgia Gardens
Georgia Cooks

Georgia Magazine - September 2012