All you wanted to know about cranberries

Find out about one of Michigan’s agricultural products including how to use, and store them.

Cranberries – seems like you either love them or don’t. Either way, cranberries are an interesting fruit. They date back to the early settlers, who mixed them with other products and dried them for long journeys or used them as a source of vitamin C for those traveling on a ship for long periods of time. The cranberry blossom was thought to look like the head of a Sandhill crane, and the term “crane berry” was coined, now known as “cranberry.”

Cranberries grow best in northern latitudes, from Maine to Washington, with Wisconsin being the leading producer of cranberries. Michigan does grow cranberries but is well behind top-producing states such as Washington and Massachusetts. Cranberries are mostly used for juice, sauce, or dried, and also added to other foods or sold fresh. The fall and winter months are when you see fresh cranberries, as they are typically harvested in November.

Cranberries grow best in sandy soil and usually are grown in “bogs,” or wetlands that get their water from rain or snow. During harvest, farmers usually flood their bogs. Because cranberries have small air pockets in the center, they float to the top so that the farmers can harvest them. 

Cranberries alone are quite tart, so they are commonly sweetened in recipes or in the products you purchase. They provide a lot of great nutrients such as vitamin C and fiber, as well as other antioxidants that are part of a healthy diet. The United States Department of Agriculture has a lot of information on cranberries, including recipes.  But, if you would like to preserve the fruit, The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a guide for water bath canning the fruit, and you can also find information on drying as well. You can also easily freeze them to make this fruit available to you year round. 

Michigan State University Extension supports the Dietary Guidelines recommendation that at least half of your plate comes from fruits and vegetables and cranberries can be part of a healthy diet. 

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