There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. – O. Henry
As millions of Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about cranberries, since cranberry sauce is part of Thanksgiving dinner just like turkeys, stuffing and pies.
Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America in addition to Concord grapes and blueberries, unless you know of any others. They are harvested primarily in the Northeastern United States. I’ve always thought that harvesting cranberries was a very cool process. I’ve read about it; I’ve seen pictures; but I’ve never witnessed it until last week. This was so fascinating. Whoever thought to flood the bogs? A warm and beautiful November day in Lakeville, MA really helped me take some nice, colorful shots. Good place to go since Massachusetts is the second largest producer of cranberries in the world.
I did a little bit of research and it turns out that someone had the great idea to flood the bogs back in the 1960’s. Since the berries have pockets of air inside, water helps remove them from the vines because they float. There are two methods of harvesting cranberries: wet and dry. Over 90% are wet-picked today and they are primarily used for juices, cranberry sauce or dried cranberries. The approximately 10% that are being dry-picked are sold as fresh or frozen to the consumers.
For wet harvesting, the bogs are flooded with up to 18 inches of water the day before. The farmers use some custom-made machinery (nicknamed “eggbeaters”) like the ones in the photo below to displace the berries from the vines so they’ll float to the surface. Next, all the berries are pulled together in a process called corralling. They are then transferred to a loading area where they are pumped into trucks and sent to the plants for processing.
Cranberries are very tart and bitter if eaten raw; therefore they need to be mixed with sugar or other sweet juices to be palatable. Maybe that’s why cranberry juice gets a bad reputation sometimes, but keep in mind that they also have numerous health benefits since they are full of antioxidants.
I wasn’t able to find a lot of information or to witness the dry harvesting method. I know that the growers use pickers similar to large lawnmowers and they sometimes use helicopters to transport them. This way the vines are protected from trucks going into the bogs. If you are familiar with the process, feel free to share some facts and perhaps some photos with the Balcony.
I would like to wish those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving lots of joy and happiness next to your families and loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving from the Balcony!