CRANBERRY | How Does It Grow?

CRANBERRY | How Does It Grow?

Of all the fruits farmed in the United
States, you can count on one hand, how many are native to this land – cranberries are one of them. They were both food and medicine – to
Native Americans – who recognize the cranberries’ anti-inflammatory properties.
They even spread it on their arrow wounds. And today we know the humble cranberry
outranks almost every fruit and vegetable for disease fighting
antioxidants. Every year one-fifth of America’s total harvest is consumed
around one day: Thanksgiving. Most of that, is cranberry sauce. Only five percent of the nation’s crop
is sold as whole fresh cranberries. But everything else we eat: the dried
sweetened cranberries, the juice, the sauce – it all starts with this peculiar
little berry. And contrary to popular belief, cranberries don’t grow under
water. So – how do they grow? We’re in southern New Jersey – one of
America’s top three cranberry states. This region is called the Pine Barrens,
and natural habitat for cranberries. Many of the same families have farmed the berries since the mid-1800s – like the Leigh brothers – this seventh generation
cranberry farm. Cranberries grow on low trailing vines and sunken beds called bogs. The plants are perennial, meaning they survive year after year. Here the oldest vines are over 65 years old. Cranberries love this sort of sandy soil, and they take a long time to grow – 16 months. You can see here that while the berries are ripening, the buds for next year’s crop are already growing on the
vine. So farmers have to carefully nurture two seasons worth of cranberries
at one time. Water is one of the most precious resources for cranberry farmers.
This 2,000 acre farm uses only a hundred and thirty acres to grow cranberries. The
rest is a series of reservoirs and watersheds. The primary sources that is
the waiting river, which runs naturally along the farm, and we’ll borrow the water
during the growing season, and put it back in when we’re finished with it.
We’re simply holding the keys for the following generations after harvest. So
what’s all this water for, if the cranberries grow in dry land? Well, twice
a year the farmers flood the bogs. First in December for the duration of winter. This is when the plants go dormant, and their blanket of water insulates the
vines from harsh winter frost. In the spring, the bogs are drained, and the cranberries’ pink flowers bloom. Nowadays, many farms like Lee brothers hire commercial bees to pollinate the fields. And by mid-June, the fruit begins to grow,
the berries start out green, turn white around August, and finally, red in the
fall. The funny thing about cranberries is, they don’t really sweeten as they
ripen like strawberries or blueberries. They’re a naturally tart fruit, whether
they’re red or white, and the color is just skin deep. See, the
inside is white and it’s crisp like an apple, and inside there are four air
chambers, which means that cranberries can – float – and that brings us to the
second time the bogs are flooded: for the October Harvest. A harvester drives through to knock the berries off the vines. Then, farmers wade into the bog, to corral
the floating berries to an elevator that sucks them up into a truck. Nearly all the cranberry farmers in New
Jersey belonged to the Ocean Spray Cooperative, which grows over 60% of the
world’s cranberries. These berries will be frozen and processed into craisins
and cranberry juice. Remember, cranberries are tart, so a lot
of cranberry products have added sugar, to make them sweet. But around
Thanksgiving, you can find whole cranberries (fresh or frozen) in the
supermarket, and you can easily turn these beauties into a killer cranberry
sauce. You can even mold the sauce, and
refrigerate it for that fresh-from-a-can look, except this stuff is a whole lot
better for you – and it tastes a whole lot better too…


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