Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cranberry Country

When the air gets brisk and the leaves put on their golden display it's time to harvest cranberries. Massachusetts is the 2nd largest producer of cranberries in the United States with Wisconsin being the largest. The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America - the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. Cranberries were widely found in Massachusetts, as documented by the Pilgrims who settled here. Rumor has it that cranberries may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth. Recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s.

Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines that have slender, wiry stems and small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink in the spring which eventually yields a large red berry in the fall. The plants are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the United States. The name cranberry derives from "craneberry," first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane.

We are lucky enough to live in the heart of cranberry country.

As a matter of fact the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray is only a few miles from our house. So what does one do when it's cranberry season? Why you celebrate this colorful fall bounty by visiting the annual Cranberry Festival.

There are several cranberry festivals all over our region, but our favorite is the one hosted by Edaville in Carver, Massachusetts. Edaville is a family amusement park famous for it's old-fashion train rides that wind through acres of cranberry bogs.

After a leisurely train ride we headed for the exhibitor booths and food court.

We stopped at the general store for some some delicious cranberry jam and warm bread.

I enjoyed watching the blacksmith do some forging. My grandfather was a blacksmith so this always brings back memories of visiting his shop when I was a child.

After enjoying some time talking to local craftsman we headed for the cranberry museum. Here's a display made entirely of vintage labels.

This is an early cranberry processing machine. The cranberries would move along the belt and the ones that bounced the most had the highest quality.

Some old cranberry crates.

A vintage barrel label.

These are dry harvesting machines.

A selection of vintage wooden cranberry scoops. These comb-like tools are used to harvest cranberries by hand.

This displays shows the different layers that comprise a cranberry bog.

Here's what's in those layers.

A vintage wet harvesting machine.

Vintage wheelbarrows that are made to hold crates of cranberries.

A vintage barrel.

This display shows the timeline of Ocean Spray.

A cool old truck.... every time I see one of these I want one for myself.

Another harvesting machine.

When we left the cranberry museum we headed for a tour of the bogs.

Here the cranberry bog has been flooded for harvesting.

Andy (on the left) stopped to chat with the man who had just finished harvesting one of the bogs.

As the vines are wet harvested they often get tangled in the machine and have to be cleaned out periodically.

These 3 cranberries look like eggs to me.

Here's a cranberry bog as it looks prior to being flooded. It's not very pretty at this stage but soon it will be a sea of red berries.

All of these cranberries got me itching to do some baking. I'll be posting my favorite cranberry bread recipe soon so stay tuned.


Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Thank you Jackie for showing a cranberry bog! It's so wonderful, so colorful! I love cranberries, they are good for us! Thanks for taking us on the tour!

texasdaisey said...

What a great post. I didn't really know much about cranberries except that they don't grow in Texas and they do grow in bogs. I really enjoyed it.

Mildred said...

I enjoyed this post and all the photos so much. Seeing the cranberries in the bog reminds me of the Ocean Spray commercial. I look forward to your favorite recipes.

Beegirl said...

Great post! I would love to see this..
We love Cranberries...

Joanne said...

What an interesting post I did try growing some cranberries but had no success I did not realise they grew in boggy conditions so not surprising.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

What a neat place. I didn't know they grew on vines. It's fun to see how they are harvested. Now I'm craving cranberry juice.

Miss Daisy said...

What an incredible place to visit and look at ALL of those cranberries! It's a sea of red. Looks like you had a great time.

sweet bay said...

The cranberry bog is beautiful I love making cranberry bread at Christmastime and try to use it at other times during the year too. Cranberries have such a wonderful tart taste.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

You're probably going to think this is silly but I love how cranberries look more than I like to eat them (although I love their juice). The red color just makes me swoon!

Gail said...

Your photo of the flooded cranberry bog is wonderful...and thank you for the tour and info on cranberry growing. I've recently had a cranberry bread with chocolate in it! Have fun in the kitchen~gail

tina said...

Awesome history and pictoral view of the cranberries. I always thought Massachusetts was the number one harvester and am surprised to hear Wisconsin is now. We have a few bogs in Maine but I've never seen the process or even a cranberry. They are most nice. The labels are cool too. What a nice day!

Carol said...

When driving out towards my favorite getaway spot on the cape I love seeing the cranberry bogs... I did not know they flooded them or how the fruit was harvested... great to know that. Very interesting post. Lovely photos!