The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted last month that the state’s cranberry crop would be down 20 percent from last year, one of the best ever for local growers. Still, at 1.9 million barrels, an Ocean Spray spokesman says the harvest could still be the company’s second or third-largest ever.
Once again, people throughout southeastern Massachusetts are seeing red. Granted, they’re not seeing as much of it as last year. That’s after the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted last month that the state’s cranberry crop would be down 20 percent from last year, one of the best ever for local growers.
That’s not-so-good news for growers throughout southeastern Massachusetts, not to mention the many who reap the berries’ many health benefits by eating and drinking the small, tart fruit.
Still, at 1.9 million barrels, an Ocean Spray spokesman said the harvest could still be the company’s second or third-largest ever.
The reason from the drop-off? Some of it is standard year-to-year fluctuations, though the cool spring and wet early summer played a role.
Regardless, hundreds of people have been hard at work in recent weeks – flooding bogs, cutting the vines, then pulling in the berries from bogs.
The tradition has been a part of New England since the 1800s, when farmers first discovered how to harvest the fruit. Cranberry harvesting and production has grown into one of the region’s biggest industries, especially in Plymouth, Carver, Wareham, Middleboro and Rochester.
The Patriot Ledger
CRANBERRIES THROUGH THE YEARS
1550: Cranberries are a staple food for many American Indians. They eat them fresh, grind them (sometimes sweetened with maple sugar or honey), mix them with cornmeal or add them to bread.
1600s: Settlers name the berry “crane-berry” – either because cranes appeared to enjoy eating it or its blossom looked like the head and neck of an English crane.
1620s: Taught by Indians, the Pilgrims begin eating and using cranberries.
1683: Colonists start making and drinking cranberry juice.
1816: Capt. Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran from Dennis, becomes the first person to cultivate cranberries after noticing the berries thrive when sand blows over them.
1860: Edward Sackett moves from New York to Berlin, Wis., where he begins setting up bogs to collect fruits from 700 acres of cranberry vines. He sells the cranberries in Chicago for $15 a barrel.
1864: Union soldiers under the direction of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant eat cranberries as sustenance while surrounding Confederate troops in Petersburg, Va.
1940s: U.S. troops eat about a million pounds of dehydrated cranberries annually during World War II.
2006: About 3 billion to 3.5 billion cranberries, on 39,000 acres, are harvested annually in the U.S.
Source: Cranberry Marketing Committee
BILLIONS OF BERRIES
3 to 3.5 billion cranberries harvested in U.S. in 2006
39,000 acres harvested that year
14,000 acres of cranberry bogs in Massachusetts, not including 60,000 acres for related watersheds
48 cities and towns in the Bay State with cranberry bogs
62% of the state’s cranberry crop harvested in Carver, Wareham, Middleboro, Plymouth and Rochester
2 pounds per year of cranberries consumed on average by Americans each year
20% of cranberries consumed during Thanksgiving week
3 fruits native to the U.S. and Canada – Concord grapes, blueberries and cranberries
1,000-2,000 different products made each year out of cranberries
10 ounces of cranberry juice recommended daily by the National Kidney Foundation to curb urinary tract infections
Sources: University of Massachusetts-Amherst Cranberry Marketing Committee; Cranberry Institute