Cranberry Harvest Time

My sister-in-law describes how the floating cranberries are gathered (photo by Kate St. John)
My sister-in-law describes how the floating cranberries are gathered (photo by Kate St. John)

October is cranberry harvest time in Massachusetts.  Last week at Cape Cod my sister-in-law took us to see a flooded cranberry bog, red with floating cranberries.

Cranberries are native perennial vines that grow in sandy soil.  Before mechanization people used to pick them by hand, crawling around on their hands and knees as shown in this painting of Nantucket in 1880.

Jonathan Eastman Johnson: The Cranberry Harvest on the Island of Nantucket, 1880
Jonathan Eastman Johnson: The Cranberry Harvest on the Island of Nantucket, 1880

Nowadays the harvest uses machines and this unique quality of the cranberry -- it floats.

In the photo at top, my sister-in-law describes how the bog is dry during the growing season.  In the spring, honeybees are brought in to pollinate the cranberry flowers.  Then in October when the berries are ripe, workers flood the bog and use a thresher machine to knock the berries off the underwater vines.  The berries float, the workers corral the berries, and machines lift the cranberries out of the bog.

My husband went back a few days later to see the rest of the process.  Here the cranberries are corralled and shuttled up out of the bog into the large black truck.

Cranberry harvest at Cape Cod: the berries are lifted into the truck on the left (photo by Rick St. John)
Cranberry harvest at Cape Cod: the berries are lifted into the truck on the left (photo by Rick St. John)

A man monitors the machinery as cranberries tumble into the truck (photo by Rick St. John)
A man monitors the machinery as cranberries tumble into the truck (photo by Rick St. John)

 

This 5 minute video shows the entire process.

 

The cranberry harvest is underway this month in these northern states and provinces: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Quebec.

 

(photos of a Cape Cod cranberry bog by Kate and Rick St. John. Painting of The Cranberry Harvest on the Island of Nantucket, 1880 by Jonathan Eastman Johnson via Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original.  Video from True Food TV via YouTube)

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