Most people know that cranberries are usually seen around the holidays when it appears in its most traditional form of cranberry sauce. But how did that tart, little red berry become a great-tasting sauce?
Cranberries are grown mostly in Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Oregon to name a few regions. In all three states, harvest occurs at approximately the same time but lasting in differing durations. Two different methods of harvesting are utilized, those being wet and dry picking.
Wet picking, or wet harvest, is the most common way to get berries off the plants. It is the easiest and quickest way to get the job done. What happens is that the bog or marsh, its name depending on where you live, is flooded at the time of harvest. A set amount of water is applied to the acreage to completely cover the cranberries. Then a motorized picker is driven onto the bog and it has a motion that picks or beats the berries off the vine.
Around and around the farmer goes, in circles, marking where they have been with a large rod. With each complete circle or square made on the bog or marsh, the picker is continually moved toward the center of the acreage. Depending on how many berries there are this job can take as long as half a day or more. Once the cranberries are picked they float to the surface which leads to the next task of harvesting.
Workers in the chest-high waders and boots walk into the water with boards called booms and push the berries to the corner of the bog or marsh where they will be collected and put in a truck for transport. This job can also take a long time if the acreage is very big. And moving in the water is a slow job so hurrying does little to get the task done quicker.
Once all the berries are scooted to the corner where the elevator or pump is aligned, the machinery that carries or sucks the berries up, is started. Those in the water continue to push the berries up with the booms and rakes until the last berries are done and loaded.
Getting all the cranberries picked and loaded in a truck can cover more than one day. Equipment sometimes breaks down and needs repairing or weather interferes with harvesting efforts.
Once all the berries are loaded, the truck makes its trek to a nearby plant where workers drive forklifts and unload crates of cranberries to be shipped for processing.Once all the berries