We’re on Cape Cod. Where are the cranberries? Believe me – I’m looking. In the Midwest, in New York, we’re used to seeing large fields of corn or soybeans or even potatoes during harvest season. So where are the Massachusetts cranberries?
Today as we rode home along the Cape Cod Rail Trail a few bikers were stopped along a rail fence between two ponds we had blithely ridden past earlier in the day.
We stopped to see what the attraction was. Cranberries! Now when we looked closely we could see some lighter-colored dots on bushes just under the water. On the side of the pond a 12-inch pipe was still gushing water into this pond from the one on the other side of the bike trail.
On the far side of the pond/field were two large machines rolling through the water. Aha! These were water reels that roll through the bog and loosen the cranberries from the vine. So now the water surface was filling with berries that had popped to the surface.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love berries, so I just had to get one to taste. I stepped over the fence and walked toward the water’s edge where a few berries were floating. From across the bog I heard a booming voice: “Hey! Get outta there!” So, of course, I got out.
I’ve seen all the Ocean Spray commercials with Wise Old Farmer and Young Bumpkin, extolling the virtues of cranberries and welcoming all of us to enjoy them. Clearly the TV guys were not the ones at the harvest today! All I wanted was one cranberry. (Now of course I realize this is private property and there are probably all kinds of liability issues of my being on that side of the fence and if EVERYONE took just one cranberry, there wouldn’t be any left. But that didn’t matter to me; I only wanted one.)
We watched the harvesters for a while longer and then went home. The next time we were back on the trail the berries were all corralled together at the far side making a giant orange blanket on the surface. Yes, light orange, not red. Apparently these were normal cranberries, fully ripe, but simply harvested early before redness set in so that they could be used for white cranberry juice. It looked like they were waiting to be sucked up on an elevator and taken off by truck for processing.
So now there were a couple lonely berries still floating near the little spit of land where I had been standing when I was frightened away the day earlier. Clearly these were abandoned…and no farmers in sight. Voila! I have a little handful of berries. I put them in a plastic bag to see if they will turn red.
A day or two later on the Shining Sea Trail, we went past a field somewhat blocked by the hedge along the trail near Bourne Farm. A sign described it as one of the oldest cultivated and working cranberry bogs in Massachusetts, dating to the 1860s. This field had no water in it and the cranberries are somewhat visible. And these seemed to be more red.
According to Ocean Spray, fresh cranberries for our Thanksgiving sauces are harvested using a dry method with a lawnmower-looking mechanical picker. So maybe these little red gems will show up on our table in Sonoma in a couple months.
Cranberry fields forever.