Love them or hate them, cranberries are a traditional staple seen on many holiday tables. Learn more about these bright red fruits that aren't actually a berry at all.
- Cranberries are native to North America (as are blueberries and Concord grapes).
- Historians generally agree that cranberries were part of the first Thanksgiving feast, but no one is quite sure how they were served.
- Cape Code Pequots and South Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes called cranberries "ibimi," or bitter berry. Native Americans mixed cranberries with deer meat, known as pemmicana.
- Dutch and German settlers thought the cranberry flower looked like a crane, and called cranberries "crane berries." Eventually the 'e' was dropped.
- Did you know cranberries are covered in sand? Sand helps keep the plants and roots healthy by protecting the vines from insects and fungi. When the bogs are flooded, the sand settles and the cranberries to float to the surface. Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall noticed that the cranberry plants near his home had the best-producing vines when the sand dunes blew over them, transplanted some vines to his home, and thus the first commercial cranberry bed was born in 1816.
- What's a cranberry bog? A bog is a "strange ecosystems characterized by thick sphagnum moss, acidic waters, peat deposits and a spongy, mat-like substance on the water's surface. Cranberries thrive best in beds within the bog, which consist of alternating layers of sand, peat, gravel and clay." (Thanks, How Stuff Works, opens a new window!)
- Cranberries used to be harvested by hand (can you imagine?) but now that the bogs are flooded, a wet harvesting technique is used because cranberries float. Read more about harvesting in the picture book, Time for Cranberries.
- Why do cranberries float? Cranberries have tiny air pockets inside them.
- Cranberries, like limes, were eaten by sailors to help prevent scurvy.
- The man who invented canned cranberry sauce, opens a new window was Marcus L. Urann, a lawyer who left his profession to buy a cranberry bog. In 1941, he developed the canned cranberry "log" that many of us love.
- Vines can live a very long time; some cranberry vines in Massachusetts are over 150 years old (that dates to right after the American Civil War!).
Check out a new mystery series set in Cranberry Cove, Michigan, called Berried Secrets.