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C is for Cranberries


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.

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Thanks for the cranberry lesson! The only cranberry bogs I’ve seen are those on the ocean spray commercials…yes I’m a city girl and we don’t have much in the way of greenery or farms.

  2. You know, I’ve lived in MA off and on for over a decade now, and I don’t think I have ever visited an actual cranberry bog. I must rectify this situation.

  3. thanks for the info. very cool. and yes, i must visit a bog as well. question though. do you happen to know the pros and cons of the different types of harvesting?

  4. Oh man, I envy you those cranberries. I love cranberries. I always make a triple batch of cranberry sauce at holidays and save some back just for me.

    To make one batch:

    1 pkg whole cranberries (I think it’s somewhere around a pound) – picked over and rinsed

    zest of 1 largish orange

    juice of said orange

    1 cup sugar (more if you don’t like it tart)

    Mix together and bake in a covered dish in a 375 overn for about 30-45 minutes. Take out of oven, taste and add more sugar if necessary. The heat already in the dish will be fine to liquify the additional sugar.

    For a bit of zip, add a splash of brandy at the end.

    Chill to set.

  5. C is also for Carole!
    Who made me so hungry with this post that I think she should host a cranberry themed knitting gathering during the harvest season.
    I’m just saying. 😉

  6. Cranberries! The color of your background! I remembering see the bogs (almost wrote blogs) when we were there some time ago. Fascinating!

  7. I love fresh cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. (Don’t even THINK about opening a can of it in my house!lol) And cranberry juice make a great Cape Codder, one of my favorite drinks. (Cranberry juice and vodka.) And the juice s good for clearing up some urinary infections. (From what I hear…) And cranberry candles are heavenly. Yeah, I love cranberrys, too. It’s a fun part of New England living.
    Oh, and you can string ’em for the Christmas Tree, too.
    Good choice for the c-word!

  8. Bog frogs? Too Funny! I’ve never heard of them before. They do sound good though. Can they be ordered online somewhere?

  9. I was in SE MA one fall at cranberry harvest time. It was amazing to me – so utterly different from any sort of harvesting I’d ever seen.

  10. Mmmm, I love cranberries, and though I’m a native New Englander, there are none up this far north. Thanks for the info I never knew about them!

  11. The other two are Concord grapes and blueberries. I should have known that (since they are very New England also) but admit to looking it up.

    I was never a big fan of cranberries as a child, possibly due to never liking cranberry juice and being called upon to drink it anyway, but I reconsidered on discovering that a local bakery makes a to-die-for cranberry crunch bar.

  12. Ooh…we absolutely loved the Edaville Railroad where we would ride the train around the cranberry blogs. I sure do miss parts of MA. Sigh. Great C!

  13. Fascinating. I’m a huge fan of the cranberry. Yummy yum yum. You are lucky to have such interesting agriculture there, no?
    But I need to know cuz you didn’t mention it–Do YOU like cranberries? 😉

  14. Mmmm, I love cranberries and have always been fascinated by the harvesting of them but haven’t ever really looked into it.

    Thanks for writing this up, very interesting!!!

  15. Great C Carole! I too love cranberries, gonna go put some Craisins in my cereal for breakfast come to think of it 🙂

    Thanks for the compliments on my DFS! So when do your adoring fans get to see yours?

  16. Am i the only one who doesn’t like cranberries??
    But I still found the info quite fascinating. I love loading myself full of information. So that we someone asks some mundane question, i can actually answer it. It drives people crazy, like my husband.

  17. Ok. Now I know I have to move. First there was the party – you know. With the sash swap. Now cranberries. Carole? Norma? Anyone in the New England state? Know of any houses for sale so I can move?? 🙂

    I never knew all that about cranberries. I love them as cranberry relish (I make an awesome cranberry relish). But everything else you mentioned…yum! I’m going to have to take a trip to Massachusetts!!

  18. Great description of the cranberry and its harvesting.

    However, Moodyknitter isn’t alone in not liking cranberries. I love the look of the bogs during harvest, with the berries floating on top of the water, and adore the aroma, but the taste just makes me cringe.

  19. I LOVE cranberry harvesting time. So pretty!

    Sadly, around here so many of the bogs have been let go fallow I truly think it is an endangered industry in my town.

  20. Such a fun post! Like that pomegranate one I wrote last November – chocked full of fruity goodness and information! (I would expect nothing less, Madame Librarian!) I wanted to thank you for your recap on your RFID conf. I am probably going to choose that as my topic for one of my term papers, and your info is very helpful!

    Take care~

  21. I love everything about cranberries. Your post makes me crave one of my most favorite things – dried cranberries. (in a salad with pecans and gorgonzola and field greens – yum!) My husband can’t deal with raisins but dried cranberries are just fine so I make this substitution in tons of stuff. Thatnks for the education. I’ll have to go see the bogs some time.

  22. I just loved this post, as I have cranberry juice daily but live on the opposite side of the country from the bogs, and can only dream of seeing them. Thanks for bringing them to life for me.

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