What else would today be if not the Co-conspirator of turkey everywhere? That is right, it is Cranberry Day! We once again ask why, especially when it comes to that wiggly, jiggly, ridged cranberry sauce from the can.
I don’t know how I knew that the cranberry is actually native to North America, but I did and it is. As a wild perennial, we know Native Americans used cranberries as both food and medicine. Cranberries are well-suited to the chilly climate and acidic soil of the Northern hemisphere, and are grown in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey and in parts of Washington and Oregon. Wisconsin is currently producing more than half of the world’s total crop. Cranberries, Concord grapes, and blueberries often get lumped together as the only fruits native to North America – but that’s only partially correct. They are the only native North American fruits which are commercially grown. And of those three, cranberries were the first to flourish as a commercial crop thanks to innovative growing practices, including the introduction of wet harvesting and the formation of a cooperative of growers we know today as Ocean Spray.
In the 1930’s cranberry farming shifted from dry harvesting to wet. Dry harvesting is a labor-intensive affair. Wet harvesting cuts the labor to a handful of people but comes with a caveat. The berries are often too imperfect to sell as fresh product, leaving companies like Ocean Spray to meet this challenge with a solution they had waiting on the bench the whole time: Can ‘em.