Oregon is the number four producer of cranberries in the country, producing 7% of the United States domestic cranberry supply. In 2012 2,785 acres were harvested, totaling 381,090 barrels valued at $13,306,000. Cranberries are mostly grown in the coastal counties of Coos and Curry.
History of Cranberries
Cranberries are one of the three native berries to the United States. The Native Americans have been using them for hundreds of years as food, dye for clothes and as medicine. The first pilgrims to the United States were taught all about the cranberry from the Native Americans. The first cranberries to be cultivated were in 1816 by Captain Henry Hall in Massachusetts.
Historically, Oregon native cranberries were grown in the northwestern part of the state and Native Americans shared them with early settlers. The native cranberries were a good source of vitamin C and because of the extra waxy coating they were able to be stored for a long period of time. Commercial cranberry farming began in Oregon in 1885 when Charles McFarlin planted cranberry cuttings he brought from Massachusetts. He settled in Coos County which is still the top producing county for Oregon cranberries.
How they Grow
One of the biggest misconceptions is cranberries grow in water, yet they actually grow on vines in a bog. The bogs are layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. Cranberry vines grow low to the ground. A typical growing season for cranberries is April to November. Southern Oregon is a perfect place for cranberries to grow because there is a longer growing season. This allows the berries to develop a unique, dark, rich red color. Cranberry farmers use flooding, put sand on the bogs and build habitats for birds to help control insects. These natural techniques to keep pests away allow the farmer to use very minimal chemical pesticides.
The first step in harvesting cranberries is to flood the fields which is why people think cranberries grow in water. The next step is to gently loosen the fruit from the vines. Cranberries are full of air pockets, which allow them to rise to the surface of the water. Harvesters guide the cranberries to one side of the bog where an elevator scoops them out of the water and into trucks to be transported to the processing plant. Watch this Dirty Jobs video to an up close look at harvesting cranberries. Start at 17:45.
A painting by Kent Holloway depicting cranberry harvest. Photo source: oregonencyclopedia.org
Cranberries have many different uses. The Native Americans used them as food, fabric dye and medicine. They are a terrific source of Vitamin C and help prevent scurvy, a disease that causes sore gums and teeth to fall out. Today most cranberries are sold dry, although fresh cranberries can be found in the fall; another popular use is cranberry sauce.
Cranberries are a great source of Vitamin C. To the right is the Dietary Guidelines for cranberries.
Photo source: Self Nutrition Data
White Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and brandy. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Bog: where cranberries are grown, typically layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay Scurvy: a disease caused by lack of Vitamin C; leads to swollen bleeding gums