Did you know that cranberries don’t grow in water? Neither did I

Cool Facts about Cranberries

  • Cranberries do not grow in water. They grow on trailing, perennial vines in bogs, which are flooded with up to 18 inches of water the night before harvest.
  • Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to North America.
  • They got their name from the Sandhill crane, and were originally were called “craneberries.”
  • Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Americans devour close to 80 million pounds of cranberries every year during Thanksgiving week.
  • On average, 200 cranberries are needed for 1 can of sauce; more than 4,000 cranberries to produce a gallon of juice.
  • Native Americans used cranberries as a remedy—combined with fat and venison to make a survival cake known as pemmican. Yummy!

Nutrition Benefits of Cranberries

Cranberries are second only to blueberries for their power-packed punch of antioxidants. These substances may protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals or unstable molecules connected potentially to an increased risk of certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. These tart, red berries are high in fiber, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, a good source of vitamins and minerals, and tasty to boot. 

Cranberry Bogs – Are these sustainable?

Cranberries are synonymous with family time at Thanksgiving, in sauces and tarts and viewed as somewhat patriotic. The ads offered up by the largest cranberry-growing giants portray dreamy waterways that glow crimson in the fall. The calm stillness of the watered bog suggests a crop that is pure, unadulterated, and part of the natural landscape.  

The reality of commercial cranberry production is far from this, and the growing conditions needed for this crop necessitate the use of high levels of chemicals – fertilizers and pesticides.

With Climate Change, Cranberry-Growing Future Uncertain

Please don’t panic—there isn’t likely to be a cranberry shortage anytime soon. In fact, the industry is digging out of a glut from the 2017 growing season. This amazingly hardy fruit, which grows from Canada to New Jersey, has special growing needs and the erratic and changing weather is a threat to the delicate balance between what a cranberry vine requires and what it receives from its surrounding ecosystem. 

Vermont Cranberry Company—Check these out!

This story would not be complete without highlighting the Vermont Cranberry Company, owned by Bob and Betsy Lesnikowski and family. It is Vermont’s only commercial cranberry farm. Bob uses natural and organic practices to grow his cranberries in a sustainable way.

Not sure how to use them…other than in desserts and sauces? 

Check out the CLC demo class in November, “Go Beyond the Sauce” highlighting savory recipes using cranberries.

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis is the Co-op's senior copywriter. Email him at kdavis@coopfoodstore.com.