How Much Do You Actually Know About Cranberries?

Turns out, they don’t grow in water.

Whether you bake them into a buttery upside-down cake or simmer them slowly with mulling spices and orange zest to make a sauce, there’s a good chance that your Thanksgiving menu includes cranberries. In the United States, we eat more than 80 million pounds of them during Thanksgiving week — but how much do we really know about cranberries?

As a food professional (who grew up with jellied cranberry sauce at every holiday meal and a stockpile of fresh berries on-hand each fall) I figured that I knew a lot about this indigenous America fruit. That is, until I hopped into a pair of waders and spent some time in a Massachusetts cranberry bog.

Here are three things that I was surprised to learn.

Cranberries don’t grow under the water.
The mention of fresh cranberries has always brought one thing to mind: farmers, donning waders and standing knee-deep in a water-logged bog. Naturally, I assumed that cranberries grew that way (submerged under a few feet of water). They don’t, though. Cranberries grow in dry fields with sandy soil. The only time that a bog is flooded is during harvest — when farmers fill them with water.

There are two main ways to harvest cranberries.
Split open a fresh cranberry and you’ll notice something: each one has 4 air pockets inside. The air pockets make the berries buoyant. That’s the reason farmers flood their fields to harvest. The cranberries float to the top of the water where they are easily corralled and collected. Most cranberries are harvested that way. Only a small percentage are harvested without water (they’re collected by hand or with a small mechanical picker, instead).

Not all cranberries are red.
A cranberry’s color depends on a few different factors including variety, temperature and exposure to sunlight. Even though most cranberries are deep red in color, others take on rosy hue, developing just a delicate flush of color.

Who knew?!

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