Nearly home from Montana, we drove past this cranberry farm east of Vancouver, BC. Again, I only had seconds to snap a drive-by shot, but it made me look up cranberry harvesting when I got home.
I learned that cranberries can be harvested dry or wet. For the dry harvesting they go through the cranberry field with a machine much like a lawnmower except that it doesn’t cut the plants; it only scoops up the berries and bits of the plant. The berries are then sent through a machine that bounces them around and separates them from the other bits of debris through a grooved roller that rocks back and forth. Then comes the assembly line where workers pick out the bad berries from the conveyor belt.
On the tiny photo above, you can see that they have flooded the cranberry field. A taller machine, designed not to churn up the wet ground goes through and scoops up more berries to bring them to the surface.
Then the berries are “herded” together by floating dams just as if the berries were an oil spill. Once the berries are enclosed, they are vacuumed up into a truck while the water is drained off as the berries are loaded.
They still need to go through the assembly line for sorting, but machinery does all but this last step.
When you make a cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you need to add about a cup of sugar for two cups of these very tart berries, but you can make your cranberry sauce more interesting by adding plums and apples if you have them handy.
Cranberries also make a wonderful addition to muffins. Throw in a cupful with the batter instead of using blueberries. Add some chopped nuts. The measuring doesn’t have to be an exact science. Experiment. They’re sure to be good.