It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week! As people plan their menus and shop for the big day, many tables will feature a cranberry sauce or chutney. Since Thanksgiving is a big day for the cranberry, I thought it appropriate to take a closer look at this little red fruit.
The cranberry is actually native to North America! (along with blueberries and huckleberries, other members of the Vaccinium family). There are a few different varieties of cranberries, but the ones that are featured on our Thanksgiving table are Vaccinium macrocarpon. Cranberries grow in low, creeping evergreen shrubs or vines, and like many fruit bearing plants they flower in the spring (a beautiful light pink flower), are pollinated, and produce berries in the fall. Those berries start off white, and ripen to the brilliant red we are familiar with.
|Flower of the Cranberry shrub|
|Vaccinium macrocarpon, a low growing evergreen shrub|
Cranberry production is big business here in Massachusetts. We produce the second highest yield of any state in the nation (next only to Wisconsin who produces an incredible 60% of all cranberries in the US.) At 2.12 million barrels of cranberries a year, Massachusetts can take responsibility for the cranberry relish on many Thanksgiving tables every year!
Cranberries are pretty particular in the conditions they enjoy, and many people are familiar with the gorgeous bogs that grace the interior of Cape Cod. But, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association “Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. Instead, they grow on vines in impermeable beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds, commonly known as “bogs”, were originally made from glacial deposits.” The bogs are flooded only at harvest time to make collection of the cranberries easier.
|Cranberry bog, flooded to help in harvesting|
|You can see a few white or under-ripe ones in this photo|
|Beautiful red cranberries|
I think a Thanksgiving spread (with it’s somewhat bland visual palette and rich flavors) really benefits from the bright red, slightly bitter cranberry. And cranberry sauce is just about the easiest thing to make.
My favorite recipe comes from the back of the bag. Simply cook the berries in water and sugar over low heat until they start to pop. Add a pinch of Kosher salt a a bit of orange zest and you have the perfect garnish for your turkey.