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Northwest Illinois Horticulture Corner

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All About Cranberries


News source/writer: Jennifer Fishburn, Extension Educator, Horticulture,fishburn@illinois.edu

Cranberries are a staple for many people during the holidays. We use them to make cranberry salad or jello for the holiday dinner. Many people also string them with popcorn to make a beautiful garland decoration. I love to eat cranberries and find their history and production practices fascinating. Jennifer Fishburn, University of Illinois Extension Educator in Horticulture, explains all about cranberries in her following news article.

"Cranberries are a low-caloric, fiber-rich fruit, packed with nutrients like antioxidants and vitamin C," said Fishburn. "They are also low in saturated fats, sodium, and cholesterol."

"The North American cranberry,Vaccinium macrocarpon, is a native plant to the United States," she said. "The settlers called the fruit 'crane berry' because the pink flower blossom and the small stem resembled the head, beak, and neck of a crane. Eventually the word was shortened to 'cranberry.'"

More than 50 percent of the cranberries Americans consume each year are produced in Wisconsin, the nation's leader in cranberry production. "The cranberry plant is a low-growing, trailing, woody evergreen vine," said Fishburn. "Cranberry plants grow and survive under special conditions. The plants prefer a sandy or organic, acid soil with a soil pH between 4.0 and 5.5. While the plants need an adequate supply of water for frost protection, harvest, and winter flooding, they do not grow underwater or in standing water."

To produce a crop of fruit from a new plant takes about four years. Fruits are borne on short, vertical, upright branches. Flower buds are formed in late summer the season before they open.

"The plants produce a pink flower in late June and early July," she said. "After pollination by native honeybees, a berry begins to develop. The green berry takes about 75 to 100 days to mature to the dark red color."

Cranberries are harvested between September and early November. Most beds are wet-harvested by flooding the fields, while approximately 5 to 10 percent are dry-harvested.

"In winter, cranberry plants must be protected against fluctuating temperatures and drying winds," she said. "In December, dormant vines are flooded with water that freezes into a solid covering of ice. In spring, the water is pumped out of the bogs."

"It is a good idea to stock up now on fresh or frozen cranberries because they are often only available at supermarkets from September to December," Fishburn said. "To enjoy them year round, fresh cranberries can be sealed in an airtight container and frozen. They can be kept in the freezer for up to one year."

Cranberry recipes and facts can be found on the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association website athttp://www.wiscran.org.



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