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Cranberries

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Seems fitting that cranberries are the topic of this week's column, given the time of year. Cranberries have long been associated with the Thanksgiving and Christmas meal. Cranberries, once eaten only a couple times a year now they are found in the grocery isle just about any time of the year.


As with so many other fruits and vegetables, we are discovering that cranberries are a fiber-rich food that contains those antioxidants that help us all. Cranberries also have a good amount of vitamin C and are a low calorie food (as long as you do not use the recipe that requires lots of white sugar!). If you are reading labels, you will see they are low in sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol.

We sit here in the Fox Valley just over the border from nation's leader in cranberry production, Wisconsin. More than 50 percent of the cranberries we eat each year are produced in Wisconsin. The other states that produce cranberries for us include Oregon, New Jersey, Washington and Massachusetts. Cranberry are native to the United States and Wisconsin is expected to produce 4.9 million barrels of cranberries or about 60 percent of the crop in the United States in 2013. A barrel weighs 100 pounds so that is a whole lot of berries!

Cranberries are produced in areas where the fields can be flooded and with an acidic soil that is either sandy or organic. It takes about 4 years before the plants begin to produce. Cranberries are long season crop producing a berry in about 75 to 100 days depending on the variety. The flooding serves two purposes. One, like you see on the TV commercials is for harvesting the berries, the other for winter and frost protection. Cranberries are harvested anywhere between September and November.

The Wisconsin Cranberry Growers website (www.wiscran.org) has many interesting factoids about the modern cranberry. For instance, the first cranberries were likely served back in the early 1860's and only five percent of today's crop is sold as fresh berries. If you need something to talk about over the holiday meal, ask your guests if they can list all the foods today that contain cranberries, dried cranberries, muffins with cranberries, salads, and many more. Over 1,000 food and beverage products today contain cranberries.



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