Curator’s Corner: Cranberries

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections


As part of our ongoing series about all the good stuff that came from the west I present to you: The Cranberry.

What would our turkey be without our beloved cranberry? Especially all the leftover turkey sandwiches that follow Thanksgiving (Not to mention a well-made Cosmopolitan…).

Cranberries are native to the East Coast of the United States and have been eaten and used as dye for cloth by Native peoples for millennia.

First mentioned by Europeans in the 1550’s, cranberries soon became a staple of American eating — they are featured in early American cookbooks and records.

Cranberries are harvested in a very unusual manner by which the berries are flooded in a bog and then scooped up on the top of the water. They can be dry harvested but this is tedious and time consuming and although it does produce a less beat up berry, it is not often used.

Cranberries ripen in late fall, which is why they are such a staple of the holiday season. Today in the United States over 40,000 acres are dedicated to cranberry production and we produce almost 400,000 tons of them a year. Although some are also grown in Canada and Chile, the United States still ranks first in cranberry production.

Although the United States does export cranberries to places like the European Union and China, most of our crop stays domestic. The cranberry is one of those fantastic foods I really think of as American as apple pie. A quintessential food of our holiday tables and 1/3 of a Cosmopolitan, the cranberry is very important indeed.

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