When one thinks of American pies, the most quintessential one among them would be the apple pie. However, it would be more correct to think of another fruit that is, in fact, native to the North American soil unlike apples. I am talking about cranberries – a fruit that has had a long and interesting history.
Long before the Pilgrims stepped foot into this country, North American Indians harvested cranberries and used them for a variety of purposes. They would make a cooked sauce with maple sugar or honey which was served with meat. It was also common practice to crush the fruit with melted fat and dried deer meat to make pemmican – a type of food that could be preserved for a longer period of time.
In addition to cooking, cranberry was also recognized for its medicinal and nutritive value. Brewed cranberry poultices were used by the natives to draw poison from arrow wounds. And, American sailors travelled with barrels full of cranberries, since its high vitamin content prevented scurvy.
Early 19th saw the cultivation of cranberries in the area known as Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Soon the industry spread to other parts of the nation, such as New Jersey, Wisconsin, and the Pacific Northwest. However, it is interesting to know that most of what the modern society knows about cranberry farming comes from the observation of a shrewd farmer Henry Hall.
A resident of Dennis, Massachusetts, Hall looked on in despair as a storm tide washed over his cranberry bog in 1816, bringing in a pile of sand with it. However, he noticed that instead of destroying his crops, the soil brought in a better yield. That’s when he was able to understand the role of soil in the production of fine cranberries.
How you harvest cranberries depends, to a great extent, on what you intend to do with it. While cranberries that are sold fresh as fruit are dry harvested in much the same way as any other berry, those that are to be used for making processed foods are picked using a rather unique technique known as wet harvesting. When the time is right, the bogs are flooded with water causing the ripe cranberries to float on the water’s surface. They are then herded together in a ring and collected manually or mechanically.
Today, there are over 1,200 cranberry bogs/farms in North America that produce more than 100,000 tons of this ruby-red fruit. Wisconsin is the leader in the production of cranberries and Washington, New Jersey, and Massachusetts follow a close second.
Wow, that is a lot of history for such a tiny, little fruit! The next time you are ladling cranberry sauce on to roast turkey or serving a perfectly delicious cranberry apple pie to your family during the holidays, you’d do well to say a silent prayer of thanks – just like the Pilgrims did when they came over into the ‘New World’. What would the world be without cranberries, after all?
Republished by Blog Post Promoter
You must be logged in to post a comment.