Nearly every day, Dodger (my loyal canine friend) and I walk the cranberry bogs of Bourne. I tend to watch the steady changing of the seasons and Dodger hunts frogs. Dodger is not a skilled hunter, however, and it’s been a solid four years of hunting with out a single toad to show for the effort.
The cranberry is arguably one of the most recognized aspects of Cape Cod life. More than 14,000 acres of working cranberry bogs are dotted throughout Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. Ten thousand years before endless bridge traffic, glaciers pass through the region leaving behind scars on the landscape called, kettle holes. Over time, (I am not a cranberry expert or geologist, but I’ll do my best here) these holes filled with sediment and in acidic regions, these indentations in the surface are nearly perfect for the tiny red berry.
The tending of cranberries on Cape Cod began in the early 1800s, but the fruit had been known to and used by native populations for thousands of years. As demand for the berry increased and technology improved, the cranberry business grew into one of the most important industries in the region.
After the summer growing season, fall is the time to harvest. There are two methods to harvesting, the dry method and the wet method. The dry method makes up for only 10% of the yearly harvest and is completed by specialized machines combing the vines and gathering berries into sacks. These sacks are then gathered in larger bins…. so on and so on. Cranberries dry harvested are what you would buy in your local market’s produce section.
The wet harvest method is what is normally thought of when talking cranberries. When the crop is ripe, the bogs are flooded with water stored in fill-ponds or small reservoirs. Once water covers the plants, water reels (shown in the photos) known as “egg-beaters” are used to loosen the berries from the vine. Because of a small air pocket in each berry, the fruit floats to the surface and is then gathered into large groups for easy collection. These berries make up the other 90% of the yearly crop and are used for your favorite juices.
In case you are curious – half cranberry and half orange juice is my favorite… Dodger still prefers the frog water.
To learn more than you could ever dream of the cranberry, visit the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association website – http://www.cranberries.org/