Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cranberry picking

I went on a wonderful adventure cranberry picking in Carver, MA this past weekend -- 100 year old cranberry bogs, farms nestled in between the gorgeous foliage, I don't know a better way to spend a day!

The most surprising thing is that cranberry bogs are not actually wet year round, they're just wet for harvesting and for frost protection in the winter.  The Ocean Spray commercials have certainly misled me.  That, and I had always thought that a cranberry plant was more like a bush - but they're actually very short, and grow on a layer of peat and sand.

In the spring, the plants are green, flowers are put out and fertilized, and then the berries develop.  At just the right time, the bog is flooded.  Cranberries have four air pockets, so they float on the surface of the water, still attached to their parent plant.  They're jostled by a machine, and a vacuum is used to harvest the berries into a long truck.  After the cranberries are picked, the plants turn red.  Not all the cranberries are extracted, especially those on the sides of the field, so these were the ones we picked, and they're the ones that help the bogs turnover and continue growing.  Once the temperature reaches a chilly freezing point, sprinklers are employed to make a protective coating of ice over the bog.  Sand is trucked onto each field and spread over the ice so it can slowly be distributed as the ice melts. 

The water in this bog is still draining (it's about three feet deep in the culvert right now). 

(As an aside, doesn't this look suspiciously like one of those 1000 piece puzzles?  Tiny farm in the background, never-ending sky, field in the forefront?)

An already-harvested cranberry bog.

Since these plants still have their berries, they're green.

The plants themselves are just so small!  6-12 inches high, maximum. 

Me crouching at eye level with the cranberry vines. 

It's hard to tell in this picture, but she's crouching in the ditch that marks the edge of the bog, where we were able to pick the cranberries.

The fields at Flax Pond.  Flax Pond is actually a dry harvest farm, meaning all of their berries are the kind sold in the bags you buy in the grocery store.  All of the wet harvest berries are frozen for sale or turned into things like juices, sauces, and jams. 

A dry harvester; these contraptions are pushed like lawn mowers through the field, and the cranberries are caught in what would normally be the bag for the grass clippings. 

But to spare the field the additional damage incurred from loading trucks, all the bags are put into these helicopter-ready crates and helo'd off the field.  Amazing.

Ocean Spray is actually a farmer's cooperative, meaning each farmer that gives over their cranberries to the company owns a portion of the profits.

The cranberry sorter at Flax Pond Farm. 


Joy Tilton said...

Bridget, this was so interesting! After all the cranberries/cranberry juice I've consumed, you'd have thought I would have Googled this at some point! Love your blog and I'll be back. Come visit me in Arkansas on Granny Mountain!

Bridget said...

It is fascinating, I definitely learned quite a bit about cranberries!

Mary Kay said...

Interesting! I didn't know that there are wet and dry cranberry bogs. I think that I've already told you but I've always wanted to see a wet bog at cranberry picking time. I also attribute it to the influence of Ocean Spray commercials!

Bridget said...

It absolutely would have been cool to see a bog in the process of harvesting! ..but being able to pick cranberries myself was awesome, so I'll take it!