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UGA Patents Sweet New Muscadine Variety

Don't expect a new grape to become as well-known as its namesake. But Scarlett, a patented muscadine variety being released by the University of Georgia, is likely to please the state's muscadine lovers.

Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara stood out among the other characters of her famous novel. The new grape stands out, too. Unlike most muscadines, Scarlett's fruit is red.

"I decided to name it Scarlett because of the fruit's color and in keeping with the 'Gone with the Wind' theme which began with the release of Tara," Ron Lane said.

Lane, a UGA horticulturist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, bred the new grape at the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin.

The fruit's color is reminiscent of Higgins, a muscadine the Georgia Station released in 1955. However, Scarlett is much brighter and cleaner than Higgins.

But Scarlett's taste, not its color, shines most in muscadine lovers' eyes.

"Scarlett consistently rates very high in taste panel evaluations," Lane said. "It's an attractive fruit, and if the fruit looks good, a person is more apt to sample it."

Muscadine grapes are popular fresh fruit in the Southeast. They ripen in early fall, when few other fruits are in season.

Commercial growers harvest the grapes from around 1,200 Georgia acres each year. Gerard Krewer, a UGA extension horticulturist, figures nearly twice that many grow in the state's backyard gardens.

The grapes grow well throughout the state except in the high mountains, Krewer said. They're best planted in the dormant season. County extension agents can tell you how to grow them.

Scarlett will be available this fall through Ison's Nursery in Brooks, Ga., and Bottoms' Nursery in Concord, Ga. The two nurseries hold propagation rights to Scarlett under the University's patent.

Lane released Tara, Scarlett's sibling variety, in 1993. Both came from crosses between Summit and Triumph muscadines, which Lane also bred.

In field tests, Scarlett vines prove to be vigorous, productive and tolerant of most muscadine diseases. The fruit ripens over two to three weeks beginning in early September.

In comparison tests, Scarlett produced higher yields and larger fruit than other varieties. Over three years of testing, Scarlett produced an average of 76 pounds per vine.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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