Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top 10 Buzz on the Cranberry Bog

1. Sources say, nearly three quarters of Americans have never heard of a cranberry bog. A higher amount, I am sure have never seen a cranberry bog. For those of you, your life is about to change. This is a cranberry bog.

2. Cranberries grow on vines that grow low to the ground in bogs.  The berries grow on stems that rise from the runners.  Typically 6 million cranberries can be found in one bog. Times this one berry by 6 million.  That is a bunch of berries.

3. Cranberries are one of three "major" native fruits in the United States. Wisconsin is the top producer followed by Massachusetts and New Jersey is the third largest producer. The other two "major" fruits are blueberries, which New Jersey also has a market on and the Concord grape. The sandy acidic soil in the Pinelands of New Jersey has that special mix of soil just perfect for cranberries.

4. Growers will flood the bog and use a machine shown called a knocker to harvest.  It knocks the fruit off the vine and the cranberry will float to the top of the water. The engine of the machinery sits above the water line but just in case in the event of a spill, vegetable oil is used in the machine to protect the fruit.

5. The bogs are harvested in sections and the flooded waters are drained through a dam and canal system down to the next bog area to be harvested.  Sections are marked similar to mowing the grass in different patterns with moats for excess runoff on the sides. In this photograph you can see a flooded field and the next field ready for reaping with a road in between.

6. According to the njcranberries.org brochure handed out at the 2014 Chatsworth Cranberry Festival, much of the excess water in cranberry bogs percolates back through the sandy soil, recharging the Cohansey Aquifer and ensuring the sustainability of the ground water supply.  The remaining water is returned to its original stream. They did tell us that on the tour also. The water drains and flows from one bog to the next often only blocked by a piece of board that acts as a dam.

 7. Floating berries are corralled together with an inflatable boom, a similar device is used for oil spills, the vacuum hose seen in the photographs is used around the sides to gather loose berries much like a leaf blower.

8. Once the berries are gathered they travel up a conveyor belt where any leaves that came along for the ride are knocked off and into the waiting trucks the berries go. The leaves in turn are used by local blueberry farmers.  They use them for mulch.

9. Next step to the Ocean Spray Plant down the road, 90% of the cranberry crop goes here. Click on the link to see a short clip of the first phase of the cranberry on its way to bigger and better things. The employee with the scoop is taking a sample of the batch that is coming in.  They are tested and records are kept on each truckload from the bogs.

10. The Ocean Spray Processing Plant was not on the tour but employees welcomed anyone who stopped by that day and explained what goes on at the plant once farmers deliver the cranberries. It was fascinating to watch. Ocean Spray has a great website that tells you all about cranberries and they also have some delicious recipes to choose from.

If you happen to be in any of the "major" cranberry producing states, Wisconsin. Massachusetts and New Jersey during the harvest months, typically September through the beginning of November look for a cranberry bog tour, many farms offer views to the public.  My tour was through Rutgers U and local students from Mullica Townshipwho are part of the "Cranbassadors of New Jersey". It is not only a rewarding tourist opportunity it is an educational experience as well. It is worth the trip. Sometimes it is good to personally dispel the myth that cranberries do not magically appear on the table during the Thanksgiving season. You can probably find a cranberry harvest celebration in October in all of these states New Jersey had a Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth last week end.  I hope to show you what that was like in a future blog.

Trivia: In the Beatles song, Strawberry Fields Forever it was rumored that John was singing, I buried Paul in reality he was saying "cranberry sauce", so claims the bus driver on out tour and I believe that rumor and found it on the internet, where everything is true. You learn something new every day.


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