Most people would say that fall is the most colorful season in New England with all of the fall foliage that is typically found across the region. In southeastern Massachusetts, another beautiful aspect of this season is the cranberry harvest!
Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in sandy beds known as bogs, and while cranberry cultivation is a year-round effort, it is the fall harvest that is the highlight of the season. There are two methods of harvesting cranberries – dry and wet. Dry harvesting involves using a rake-type machine to take the berries off of their vines and pull them into boxes. The bags of fresh cranberries that you buy in a grocery store would have been dry harvested.
Wet harvested cranberries are typically used for juice, cranberry sauces, and dried cranberries. If you have ever chopped cranberries for a recipe, you will see that they have air pockets inside the fruit. It is these air pockets that allow the berries to float for wet harvesting. At harvest time, the growers will flood the bogs with water so that the vines are completely covered. A machine that looks like a giant eggbeater is used to stir up the water in the bogs which loosen the berries and causes them to float to the surface of the water. Once the berries are on the surface, plastic or wooden booms are used to round up the berries so that they can be pumped into a truck to be taken for processing. A cranberry bog that has been wet harvested is so picturesque – the bright red berries sitting on the surface are such a beautiful sight!
Many cranberry growers across the region offer tours during the harvest season so that you can enjoy this beautiful scene in person and maybe have a chance to pick your own berries for your holiday cranberry sauce or cranberry bread!