When to Harvest Muscadine Grapes? (Explained)

So, you’re not sure when to harvest muscadine grapes?

In this article, you will learn when to harvest muscadine grapes, how to know when they’re ready to harvest, and many more!

When to Harvest Muscadine Grapes?

Most muscadine grape cultivars are harvested from late August until late September. However, some cultivars are harvested even in early July.

A lot depends on weather conditions, and cultivar.

For example, cultivars like Black Beauty, Pam, or Pineapple are harvested in mid or late season (Late August-Late September). On the other hand, Black Fry, or Ison are ripe early, and are ready for harvesting even in late July.

For How Many Days are Muscadine Grapes Ripe?

The muscadine season is a relatively short harvest time. On average you should harvest muscadines for about 10 weeks, some years a little longer and some a little shorter depending on the weather and fruit load.

Typically, at least two harvests are required to collect all the berries, but many cultivars may require up to 10 harvests.

How to Know That Muscadine Grapes are Ready for Harvesting?

Muscadine grapes are ready for harvesting when they taste sweet, have a dark color, are easy to pull from clusters, their seeds are bronze, and birds are starting to eat them.

Grapes aren’t mature at the same time every year. A lot depends on the cultivar and weather. Once harvested, they won’t change their flavor, so it’s important to harvest them at the right time.

These are the signs that your grapes are ready for harvesting.

1. Taste. Probably the best indicator of muscadine grapes’ ripeness is their flavor. Unripe grapes are sour. Mature muscadine grapes should be very sweet with a musky scent and flavor. The skin is tart or slightly bitter in flavor.

2. Color. When muscadine grapes change their color to bronze, dark purple, or black (depending on the cultivar), it’s a sign that the harvesting is getting closer. However, a color change is a sign that your grapes will be ripe in a few weeks once they start tasting good.

3. Fullness. An underripe grape is smaller and hard to pull from the cluster. Ripe muscadine grape is plump, juicy, and pulls easily from the cluster. You should also feel like they are full of juice.

4. Stem and seed color. Muscadine grapes will change the color of the seed and stem into brown when they’re ready for harvesting.

5. Bird presence. When birds are hanging around your grapes, it’s a sign that the fruits are ripe, as birds like sweet flavor, and will stay away from sour grapes. Also, squirrels and raccoons might appear and eat your grapes once they’re good.

Related: 8 Important Facts About Grapes in the US You Need to Know

What Factors Affect the Speed of Ripening of Muscadine Grapes?

Site selection: Muscadine grapes grow fastest in full sun. North-south rows maximize sun exposure. They prefer deep, acidic (low pH 5.0-6.5), well drained, sandy soil. If the soil is too fertile, the vine grows too fast. Good air circulation is important. Muscadine grapes should be protected from severe wind.

Watering: Water regularly the first year. Directly moisten the roots without spraying or misting. After the vines are established, they seldom need watering. Overwatering causes leaves to drop. Don’t mulch vines after they’re established.

Fertilizing: Apply a fertilizer only when vines appear to need it in early spring. Excess nitrogen can cause plants to become vegetative and not flower. Too much fertilizer can cause possible winter damage and delay the coloring and ripening of fruit.

Pruning: Prune when the vines are dormant in late winter or early spring. Typically, 70-90% of the new growth should be removed on a mature vine. Balanced pruning means balancing next season’s crop with last season’s growth by judging how many buds to leave during pruning.

Winter protection: To protect muscadine grapes from winter, grow multiple trunks, mound up soil around the base of the vine. Be sure to cover any grafted part.

Weather: Grapevines thrive best in climates with long warm summers, and rainy winters. Warm weather during the growing period enables grapevine to flower, fruit set and ripen. On average, grapevines require temperatures above 10 °C (50 °F) in order to ripe properly, depending on the growing region and vine variety. Too hot, or too cold weather has everything to do with how grapes mature.

What Will Happen if You Harvest Muscadine Grapes Too Early or Too Late?

Harvesting muscadine grapes too early results in too low sugar, and too high acid level. Harvesting too late, on the other hand, results in too high sugar, and too low acid level.

Harvesting muscadine grapes at the right time is important.

If they’re picked too soon, the acid levels will be too high, the sugars too low and the tannins too aggressive. By harvesting too early, one takes the risk of producing a wine that is too astringent, with a dominating acidity and vegetal, herbaceous flavor.

If they pick too late, the sugar levels will be too high, the acids too low, which is crucial for the balance of a wine. The tannins will have evolved to a point where they will not provide the wine the required structure. The wine could end up fat and lacking in freshness.

How to Harvest Muscadine Grapes?

To harvest muscadine grapes:

1. Pick a sunny day.
2. Hold a cluster of grapes, and snip the cluster off.
3. Break off the cluster.
4. Place each bunch in a bucket.

Harvesting muscadine grapes is easy.

You need to pick grapes on a warm, sunny day as the grapes will have the highest sugar content and will store better if they do not have any surface moisture.

To pick a grape, hold a cluster of grapes in one hand and snip the whole cluster off the vine with sharp garden pruners or scissors.

Breaking off the cluster is difficult and will damage the plant, so it’s best to use a sharp cutting tool.

Then, gently place each bunch in a pail or bucket.

How to Store Muscadine Grapes?

Doesn’t matter for which purpose you want to store muscadine grapes, you should always store them in a certain way.

Grapes should be stored at a temperature of about 30-32 °F (-1-0 °C). Cooler storage runs the risk of freeze damage. Warmer temperatures may be insufficient to fully preserve them.

They should be stored at a relative humidity of about 90%-95%, as muscadine grapes have a very high moisture content.

Muscadine grapes should be stored away from other produce that have a strong smell since they may absorb odors.

You should also provide adequate air flow around the grapes to keep them cool. Make sure that they are not too tightly packed together. Prevent the grapes from coming into contact with water, since this will also hasten decay.

You can also apply ethylene, since it will not be affecting ripening or decay.


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