Cranberries

Picture 477We’ve been continuing to take walks across the bog , right now it makes for a great snowshoe outing. At the beginning of winter and before the epic snowstorms, I took a picture of the wild cranberries that grow there. Right now, like everything else, the plants are buried in snow. Every year in late September we walk down to harvest the berries. We freeze some, make cranberry sauce, and use them fresh in muffins. Wild cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpum, is a low growing, trailing, Maine native that is the same plant grown commercially. There are several selections that are grown for specific traits such as flavor and heavier production of fruit. It was originally known as ‘crane berry’, due to the shape of the petals and beaked anthers of the flowers that look like the head of a crane. The runners are up to 6′ in length, with upright stems coming off of them. The upright stems bear most of the fruit. In winter the leaves turn an attractive reddish brown to purple and add color to the landscape. Groups of the plants that would otherwise be overlooked in summer, standout in the fall and winter with their bright foliage. The addition of the red berries make them a worthwhile consideration to any landscape. A bog is not needed to grow them. They prefer moist acid soils in full to part sun, and can be found growing around bodies of water and along roadside ditches. We have many wild plants in our area which we harvest from late fall into winter. The berries have a better flavor after a cold period. It is said that the berries, juice, and extracts are useful in the control of urinary infections. They are also an incredible antioxidant. There has been some evidence that they play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and platelet aggregation. We love their tart taste, and we love having a native plant that produces berries to forage from. Heading down to the pond on a beautiful Fall day to gather the fruits of wild cranberry, well it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Here’s a simple recipe for those wild cranberries you may go scouting for this Fall:

Cranberries, 1 pound
Sugar 1 1/2 cups
Water 2 cups

We often prefer to use maple syrup instead of sugar and when doing so, use 1 cup of maple syrup.
Pick over cranberries; wash and drain. Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes
Add cranberries and simmer gently without stirring 5 to 7 minutes or until skins burst. remove from heat and cool. Makes about 4 cups.
If you tap your maple trees this Spring for maple syrup, and harvest cranberries from a wet or boggy area this Fall, and pair them together , you’ll have
created a delicious foraged dish from the wilds of your own woods. Not bad!

4 comments on “Cranberries

    • Hi Judy,
      The berries of the wild cranberry are smaller than the cultivated ones, though they are from the same species. Through selection and over time, cultivated growers have developed a cranberry that is larger and perhaps tastier ( although I think the wild berries are just as tasty). All from selection. We don’t grow wild cranberry here at the nursery, but a short walk through the woods and to the pond and we can gather are fill. The bushed are quite low to the ground and spread along the bank, so it’s a bit hard to determine how many actually plants we’re harvesting from. If you have the right growing conditions, it may be possible to grow them at home. You may research a bit and ask around to see if there are any wild plants growing nearby……..find out where that is and take a basket along for picking! If you can get someone to identify the plant for you, you may be able to spot it next time you’re out and about, and near a wet or boggy area ( or roadside even!).
      Rick usually teaches a native plant class in the spring……..you could come meet the lambs and learn to identify wild cranberry all in the same day! Did you here that Eastport ,Maine got about 78 inches of snow? That’s about an hour and a half east of us, but oh my! I think more snow coming this Sunday, hope you are staying warm and cozy over there in New Hampshire.
      denise

  1. never thought of pairing cranberries with maple syrup. Maple syrup over icecream is wonderful. I bet adding some craisins to that would be good. hmmmm

    • I think anything can be made better by adding maple syrup! Love maple syrup over ice cream…….my Dad’s favorite flavor….maple walnut. He would try hiding it so the kids wouldn’t devour it all. The best part of gathering these wild cranberries is……just that, they’re wild. Something very satisfying about wild food foraging, don’t you think?
      Always good to hear your thoughts, Molly….
      denise

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