The Cranberry

We are in the middle of the humble cranberry’s biggest season. Did you know the cranberry is Massachusetts’ state berry? Or that Massachusetts is one of the largest producers, if not the largest, of cranberries? Cape Cod is dotted with acres of cranberry bogs, adding their deep garnet color to autumn’s rich palette.

The cranberry is native to North America, an honor shared with only the blueberry and Concord grape. Cranberries grow on vines in sandy, peaty bogs. Cultivation began in the mid-nineteenth century. The fruit was first harvested by hand, then with a wooden scoop until the 1950s when wet harvesting was begun. A bog is flooded and a machine creates turbulence in the water above the berries, causing the fruit to detach from the vine and float to the surface.

Native Americans called the berries sassamanesh and ate them raw or cooked them into sauces and jellies. The settlers also ate the berries raw, but sweetened the cooked berries with sugar and maple syrup. A mixture the Native Americans made of cranberries and venison, called pemmican, provided a healthy level of vitamin C for them over the winter. It was such a good source of protein and vitamins, Robert Peary took pemmican on his expedition to the North Pole.

To know if pasta is cooked, you toss it onto the wall. If you doubt your cranberry is good, bounce it. A good cranberry bounces. It also floats.

Here’s where a good cook would add a recipe. Mine is this: Follow the directions on the package of fresh berries, but substitute somewhat less Splenda® for the sugar. Now you have healthy cranberry sauce that is pleasantly guilt-free.


About Gerri

I'm in my second career. Besides raising my beautiful family, worked as RN. Now I'm a novelist. Have completed five novels and working on my sixth. Way more fun than nursing! Happy hubby and neurotic cat hang out with me.

Posted on December 4, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I like your recipe. It is my kind of cooking – short and sweet. Have a great da.

  2. Oregon, my home state, has cranberries also. The farms are near the ocean in Southern Oregon. Of note, the ssite mentions Bandon, Oregon. Bandon was the unfortunate center of one of the largest forest fires of the twentieth century.
    The cranberry has been grown in Coos and Curry Counties, Oregon since 1885 when Charles Dexter McFarlin came to Coos County, from Massachusetts’s, and planted his first cranberry. Farming has changed since then…it has become more mechanized and environ-
    mentally friendly.
    Of note, Bandon, OR is in that area. In Setp1936 a huge forest fire consumed the city and much of the surrounding area. I remember the yellow sky and burning eyes at my home in Salem. near two hundrd miles north. The news report of the day follows:
    .”There is fire everywhere — along the gulleys beside the roads, brandishing out of the tops of trees. It is a scene that gives you a feeling of dread and the faces of the people plainly reflect it.”
    While the main fire area was in the Bandon sector, scattered blazes stretched far up the Oregon coast and down into California.
    Historic stands of redwood timber in California, product of ancient times, were threatened by the fire, which probably menaced a million acres all told. How many acres had been burned was guesswork, so scattered were the fires and so great the territory in which they were burning.

    • Thanks for adding the Oregon cranberry story. They are hardly little berries who probably like the climate much better in OR without the killer winters in MA.
      Fire is credited for human evolution into who we are today. But it has it’s horrors and to live through such fires must have been frightening! Thanks for adding to my blog!

  3. Thanks for the history. I love them in cranberry nut bread.

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