Cranberries won’t BOG you down!
When is the last time you ate a cranberry? Was it the holidays last year? Or maybe dried cranberries in your lunch? Here in Wisconsin cranberries are a big deal. The earliest memories I have about cranberries are stringing them together with popcorn as a garland for our Christmas tree. These tart berries have a rich history that dates back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Native Americans used cranberries for food, various medicines and as a beautiful dye. Although we might not use cranberries to treat the common cold, cranberries are making a big splash in many other ways.
Wisconsin is known for its rich history of producing a safe, wholesome, and secure food supply for your families, the nation, and the world. Cranberries are now in the spotlight as the fall harvest begins, decorating the landscape with pops of bright red color. The cranberry was discovered by early settlers, who called it a “crane-berry” because its blossoms resembled the head and beak of a sandhill crane. Cranberry harvest is underway and you’ll see beds around the state flooded to float these berries to the surface. Contrary to popular belief, cranberries don’t grow in water. They are grown on low-lying vines in well-drained, sandy soils with a low pH. However, these cranberry marshes are established near an adequate water supply, both for irrigation and for harvest purposes. This water supply can also be used to protect the berries from harsh Wisconsin weather as a thin layer of water over the vines can provide frost protection in early fall.
Cranberries have quite the reputation in Wisconsin as it is the number one fruit crop both in size and economic value. Our great state grows over 60 percent of the nation’s crop, making Wisconsin the top cranberry producing state in the nation. Produced by roughly 250 farmers, cranberries are grown on 21,100 acres across Wisconsin counties.
Cranberries pack a punch when it comes to supporting Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture portfolio, but also this little red berry is making a big impact globally. Wisconsin leads the nation in the export of prepared and preserved cranberries. Travelling across the world you will find cranberry tea in China, cranberry chutney in India, and spicy cranberry salsa in Mexico.
Not only do cranberries offer a delicious and unique flavor, but this special berry also offers a low calorie, high vitamin, and high mineral fruit with great fiber content. These traits are important in today’s health conscious society. The popularity of cranberries is increasing as we discover just how versatile this tangy, tart, and delicious little red berry is. Wisconsin’s native fruit continues to be cultivated and integrated into new food creations that excite people’s taste buds.
Whether you try them dried as a snack, in muffins, or in a sauce, there are so many tasty ways to enjoy and benefit from Wisconsin’s state fruit. I encourage you to try something new with cranberries this fall, whether you choose a new recipe or experiment with fresh cranberries, this Wisconsin treat is sure to satisfy! I am so excited to have the opportunity to wade in a bog and learn first-hand from Wisconsin’s cranberry farmers.