Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and cranberry sauce is on my mind. Cranberries were introduced to the English settlers in Massachusetts in the early 1800’s and the first farmed cranberries were grown in Cape Cod. Now over half of the United States crop is grown in Wisconsin. Massachusetts is the second largest producer followed by New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Canada is also a big player with over 20% of the world’s cranberries grown in the province of British Columbia. Cranberries are also grown in New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.
Cranberries contrary to popular belief are not grown in water. The season starts in April when the cranberries are planted in bogs in a mixture of moist acid peat soil and sand which allows them to thrive in harsh weather conditions. Cranberries turn from green to white to a deep red, telling the grower they are ready to be harvested. The harvest season lasts from about mid-September to mid-November and about 95% of cranberries are wet harvested. The bogs are flooded with water from a reservoir area which can take a few hours up to a few days depending on the size of the bog. Water reels move through the bog and the wheels knock the berries off the vines. The berries will then float to the surface because they have tiny air pockets inside them. The cranberries are then corralled by a person wading through the bog pulling large vinyl booms around the berries. From there the cranberries are then vacuumed out of the bog onto a tractor trailer bed.
From the 1800’s up through about 1960 cranberries were dry harvested by workers getting on their hands and knees used a claw like scoop to take the berries off the vines. This was a very labor intensive method and thank goodness now there are automatic machines that can be pushed through the fields.
The cranberries are taken to a facility to be washed and then sorted through a machine to pick out any soft berries. Good berries will bounce because of their air pockets. The soft berries will not bounce and therefore will not make the cut to be packaged for fresh berries. Some growers use an optical sorter to pick out only the red berries. Lastly the berries move on a conveyer belt where workers pick out any light colored berries that might have slipped through.
Cranberries are high in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E. Cranberries are said to help prevent urinary tract infections, improve immune function and decrease blood pressure. One half of cup of cranberries has only 25 calories! Cranberries are sold fresh for the holidays, frozen, canned, made into juice and dried fruit. They are delicious baked into muffins or breads, added to stuffing and of course made into cranberry sauce. I like to pair my cranberries with Satsuma juice and chopped up peel from Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln, CA. Post your favorite cranberry recipe on our Facebook page. Everyone at Earl’s wishes you a very Happy and Bountiful Thanksgiving!