Cranberries are a big deal in Southeastern Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts is one of the the leading states for cranberry production. Most of the growers are from small family farms with less than 20 acres of bog and the town where I work is a huge supplier of the cranberry industry and this leads to lots of cranberry-type things. There’s cranberry sauce and cranberry candy (bog frogs, kind of like cashew turtles only better) and cranberry juice and cranberry nut bread and cranberry pecan pie. The colors of the public library were even chosen to reflect the role that the cranberry industry plays in our community. You get the idea, right? Cranberries are important.
The history of cranberries is actually pretty interesting. For instance, cranberries are one of only 3 commercially grown fruits native to North America. They were first used by the Native Americans, not only as a food but also as a dye and healing agent. The cranberry harvest takes place once a year from mid-September through early November and there are two methods of harvesting cranberries. Dry harvesting involves using walk-behind machines to rake the berries off the vines into boxes or bags. Berries are removed from the bogs by either bog vehicles or helicopters. Wet harvesting involves flooding the bog with water and using a water reel to free the berries from the vines. Berries are corralled and removed from the bogs by pumps or conveyors. More than 85% of the crop is wet harvested and those are the berries that are used for juice and sauce. Dry harvested berries are what you see sold in bags at the grocery store.
Growing up in this area, I took cranberry bogs for granted. It wasn’t until I had visiting friends asking me what the bogs were that I realized how truly unique they are. The bogs look different in every season and this time of year they are flooded and you often see people ice skating on them. In the summer they are green and in the fall they are loaded with ripe red berries. There’s nothing quite like driving around in October and seeing the bogs being harvested. The sun glints off the cranberries and they look like rubies floating in the water. It’s really breathtaking and probably my most favorite time of year for viewing the bogs.
Cranberries are a way of life when you live and work in this area. I’m just saying.