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Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association

Cranberries ~ Ask the Expert

Ask the Expert - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the process for wet harvesting a cranberry bog?

Typically, it's a 3-day process. On the first day, water is released onto the bog, flooding it with enough water to just cover the vine tips.

On the second day, water reels are driven onto the bog, knocking the fruit from the vines.

On the third day, the fruit is corralled and taken off the bogs with pumps or conveyors into waiting trucks. The trucks then proceed to the receiving station for cleaning and eventual processing.

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I am having problems having my cranberries a hold shape in gel mold?

Having problems making my cranberries hold shape in gel mold?

In order for cranberries to form a gel you need 1) pectin, 2) sugar, 3) acid. Because we're talking about a natural commodity, we can't always be sure how much pectin is in the cranberries, or how much water, which will dilute the pectin.

The pectin is in the skins, the cell walls, and between the cells, so you need to simmer the cranberries for quite some time in order to dissolve all of the pectin out of the cells and into the liquidy part. I'd say at least 20 - 25 minutes of a low simmer. Let the cranberries heat up and pop open first, then add the sugar and simmer. Gelatin will break down at boiling temps, so if she's getting any gel at all after adding gelatin and boiling, it's still likely due to the pectin that is in there. If she quarters an orange and simmers the orange with the cranberries, the pectin in the orange skins will add to the total pectin amount. Then just scoop the oranges out and throw them away.

It depends upon how strong you want the gel. Cranberries will gel at about 30% sugar (You see, they need to grab all of the water away from the pectin so that the pectin molecules can bond with each other, instead of the water.) The gel will become stronger and stronger the more sugar you add. So, if this year the cranberries have a lot of water (and they probably do because of all the summer rain we had) you'll need more sugar.

How to tell how much more sugar you need? If your grandmother has a candy thermometer, she should let it reach about about 220F, this will let her know that there's enough sugar in there.

Cranberries usually have enough natural acid, and you don't need to add any more, but maybe a bit of lemon juice will ensure that you have enough acid.

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I like to stock up with cranberries in the freezer to last me through much of the year, but year to year I never know when they'll disappear from the supermarket. Is there a way to find out in advance? Last year they were gone before Christmas. Thanks.

Fresh cranberries are typically available during the months of September, October and November, which is peak time for cranberry harvesting. Purchasing extra berries when in season and freezing them is the best way to ensure ample supply through out the year.

The link below will offer several places to purchase cranberries.

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How does the cranberry wetland system function?

Cranberry agriculture is compatible with wetlands preservation. The cranberry is a native wetland plant. Cranberry wetland systems are made up of producing bogs, ditches, dikes, reservoirs, ponds and uplands, preserving over 50,000 acres of open space in the Commonwealth.

Just like natural wetlands, the cranberry wetland system recharges the aquifer; provides flood control and storm-water drainage; protects and preserves habitats for plants and animals; and filters the ground water.

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Some of the cranberries are very watery inside instead of firm and solid. Does that mean they are past ripe and generally not eaten?

If cranberries are frozen then removed from the freezer then thawed, will have a soft texture and are very usable for cooking and baking. Adding frozen cranberries to receipes is often recommended. Cranberries that were recently purchased and never frozen that appear soft are past the ripened stage, these berries should be sorted and not eaten.

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Why do you use helicopters?

Growers use helicopters to reduce the damage caused by driving equipment on the bog. Most helicopter use consists of lifting ditch mud, making crop inspections, applying fertilizer and lifting dry-picked berries.

Some pesticides, especially herbicides may also be applied with helicopters. Pesticides and fertilizers are applied early in the morning by helicopter when the air is calm.

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Are cranberries Monocot or Dicot? Are they Angiosperm or gymnosperm? Is the cranberry a leave, stem, roots, flower or fruit? Botaniclly speaking like a potato is really a stem. Are the leaves netted or parallel? Fleshy Fruit? A Drupe or Aggerate?

Cranberries are dicots

They are angiosperms

They have all plant parts (leaves, stems, roots, fruit) -- the 'runner' is botanically a stolon

Underground -- the woody part is a buried stolon (runner), the fibrous structurres are the actual roots -- cranberries are unique in that they have no root hairs

Leaves are netted in their veination
Regarding the fruit -- the cranberry fruit is a berry

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How is water used in cranberry production?

Growers use water for several reasons: irrigation, frost protection, water harvesting, pest control and winter flood protection. The water used in cranberry production is virtually non-consumptive. Water is recycled from section to section and often from grower to grower.

Innovative water conservation systems such as water recovery systems and low volume sprinklers reduce water usage. Water use on bogs over 4.66 acres ("old style" bogs) or 9.33 acres ("new style" bogs) is registered with the Department of Environmental Protection, Water Management Act Program. The style of bog is determined by MassDEP but it roughly translates to "old style" being the typical traditional, irregularly shaped, uneven bogs commonly found in Massachusetts. "New style" bog refers to modern bogs that are uniform shaped, generally rectangular and level.

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When are cranberries harvested?

The cranberry harvest takes place once a year from mid-September through early November.

There are two methods of harvesting cranberries, wet and dry. For more information on harvesting, see our Fall Growing Conditions page .

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Are pesticides used on cranberries?

Pesticides are an important part of a typical management plan used in all commercial agriculture including cranberries. In order to minimize pest damage, cultural controls, as well as biological and chemical controls, are used.

Growers weigh the environmental and economic impacts of all control options that are available in order to make the best choice for managing a specific pest. This is called Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

Growers use pesticides only when necessary and when they do, they must be used in accordance with the label directions.

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Can cranberries grow anywhere?

Cranberries are a unique fruit. They can only grow and survive under a very special combination of factors. They require an acidic, peat soil, an adequate fresh water supply, sand and a dormancy period in the winter months that provides an extended chilling period, necessary to mature fruiting buds.

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Do cranberries grow on trees?

Cranberries grow on low-running vines in impermeable beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds, commonly known as "bogs," were originally made by glacial deposits.

Normally, growers do not have to replant since the perennial cranberry will survive indefinitely with proper care. Some vines in Massachusetts are more than 150 years old.

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Are cranberries grown in water?

No, commercial cranberry bogs are actually dry. The surface of a bog is not spongy or wet like you might expect from a quaking bog or a natural wetland. Cranberries require supplemental water from in-ground irrigation systems during the growing season.

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Why are some cranberries harvested dry?

Dry harvested cranberries are sold as fresh fruit in poly-bags. About 10% of the Massachusetts crop is picked dry.

The other 90% is harvested wet and this fruit is used to make products such as juice, sweetened dried cranberries, and cranberry sauce.

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Who regulates pesticide usage?

All pesticides must be tested and registered for each specific crop use with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Anyone who uses pesticides must be licensed or certified by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, Pesticide Bureau.

Certified and licensed applicators also must complete yearly training requirements in order to maintain their license or certification.

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Are cranberries native to Massachusetts?

Yes, in fact the cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America's three native fruits that are commercially grown.

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Why are those flags of the bogs?

Those colorful flags mark many things on a cranberry bog. Some mark the edges of ditches or the center line of a bog, to help guide the wet harvesting machines in the fall. Others may mark sprinkler head locations, problem spots, large boulders, or research plots.

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Why do cranberries float?

Cranberries have four air pockets inside them. This allows the cranberries to float to the surface during the wet harvest operation.

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How many cranberry growers are there in Massachusetts?

There are approxinmately 400 growers in the state with the average farm containing about 15 - 20 acres of producing cranberry bog.

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How many acres of bogs are there in Massachusetts?

There are approximately 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs in Massachusetts, making it the second largest growing region in the world and the largest agricultural crop in the state.

The other major growing regions are Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and the Candian provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and the maritimes.

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When did the Massachusetts commercial cranberry industry start?

In 1816, a retired sea captain named Captain Henry Hall became the first to successfully cultivate cranberries in Dennis, Massachusetts (Cape Cod).

Captain Hall noticed that the wild cranberries in his bogs grew better when sand blew over them. He began transplanting his cranberry vines, fencing them in, and spreading sand on them himself. When others heard of Hall's technique, it was quickly copied. Continuing throughout the 19th century, the number of growers increased steadily.

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What is Pemmican?

Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, the most popular was pemmican - a high protein combination of crushed cranberries, dried deer meat and melted fat - they also used it as a medicine to treat arrow wounds and as a dye for rugs and blankets.

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What is that orange, spaghetti-like vine I see on cranberry bogs sometimes?

Those yellow/orange vines are a parasitic plant called dodder (Cuscuta gronovii). It is a major weed pest of cranberry bogs, found naturally in swamps of southeastern Massachusetts. Dodder plants attach to a host plant and suck the nutrients out of it.

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How many cranberries are there in a gallon of juice?

There are about 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of a typical cranberry juice product.

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How did the cranberry get its name?

The name "cranberry" derives from the Pilgrim name for the fruit, "craneberry", so called because the small, pink blossoms that appear in the spring resemble the head and bill of a Sandhill Crane.

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How many cranberries are there in a pound?

It depends on the variety of cranberry but in the most common variety in Massachusetts, Early Black, there are about 440 cranberries.

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cranberry bog in Rochester, MA

Financial support for the development of the "Ask the Expert" feature was provided in part through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources' Specialty Crop Program.
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