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A Berry-filled History

The Cranberry Business Begins

Cranberry Trivia





Coloring Book Pages (pdf):

The Cranberry Bounce Test

Jaypeg Eating Cranberries


The Cranberry Business Begins
November 2002

In New Jersey, the first cranberry cultivation began in 1840. John Webb established the first cranberry bog and sold his barrels for $50 each, which was a lot of money then. He sold them to ship merchants who sold them to sailors because cranberries would keep them from getting sick while at sea.

Elizabeth Lee was one of the only cranberry growers in southern New Jersey. She usually threw out any damaged berries she harvested. One day she decided to cook the berries, and she created a tasty sauce. Elizabeth started selling it as “Bog Sweet Cranberry Sauce.” In the beginning people didn’t want to buy it, but she continued making the sauce. Elizabeth merged her company with another one and formed Ocean Spray, which is still around today.

So, how do cranberries get from the plant to the supermarket? They’re harvested from mid-September to Thanksgiving by one of two methods: dry or wet harvesting. To dry harvest, growers use a machine that looks like a lawnmower to pick the berries off the vines and put them into a bin for storage. A New Jersey cranberry grower invented this machine. Dry harvesting produces fresh, whole cranberries.

Growers use wet harvesting for cranberries used in juices, sauces, and relishes. When the cranberries are ripe, growers flood the field with 18 inches of water. Then they use a large water reel, which looks like an eggbeater, to turn up all the cranberries so they float to the top. After taking the cranberries out, leaves and debris are removed. Then the cranberries go through a dryer (also invented in New Jersey) that blows first hot and then cold air on them.

Growers use a simple test to see if a cranberry is ripe or not. They drop the berries and let them bounce over a wooden barrier. Air pockets in the cranberries make them bounce, so if the berry is damaged it won’t bounce over the barrier. The bad berries drop down into throwaway bins, and the good ones move on to be packaged.

Next: Cranberry Trivia

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