Category Archives: Foods & Cooking

From the Bog to the Thanksgiving Table…

I can’t imagine having Thanksgiving without cranberries. My mother’s recipe for cranberry-orange relish is tangy and delicious. I admit to liking the canned cranberry “sauce” that I was always in charge of slicing and displaying on a plate as a child, along with making “bugs on a log” with celery sticks, peanut butter and raisins. Now that I’m a little more aware of some of the issues with commercial cranberry production, I try to buy organic cranberry juice and berries.

According to Dr. Leonard Perry at University of Vermont, the cranberry is a native American wetland plant that is grown in open bogs and marshes from Newfoundland to western Ontario and as far south as Virginia and Arkansas. Massachusetts is the leading producer (with about half of the total U.S. crop), followed by Wisconsin and New Jersey. The berries are harvested in October just in time for Thanksgiving.

When Native Americans harvested wild cranberries, they gathered them along stream banks and in natural bogs. Today’s commercial cranberry bogs are typically placed in areas where there is a perched water table with cedar swamps and peat bogs. The tannin and organic acid that leaches out of those swamps produces the acid soils essential for cranberry production.

Because cranberries require so much water and a particular pH balance in the soils, both commercial and organic cranberry production has a big impact on wetlands. For a good photo tour on how cranberries are grown, visit:
 Sometimes inactive cranberry bogs are converted to “native wetland habitat” like this one that was recently restored in Plymouth, Mass.:

Organic cranberry bogs are remarkable because of the intense manual labor involved. One couple in Oregon has adopted a sustainable practice of harvesting cranberries from a bog:

Each year, a unique beverage called “bog juice” is sold at the Common Ground Fair in Maine. Not to be confused with the alcoholic concoction involving snake scales, the Maine version of bog juice comes from an organic cranberry farm near Ellsworth. Bog juice is made from the crushed, pulpy cranberries, water and maple syrup. For more about the Common Ground Fair and organic farms in Maine, visit:
  Ocean Spray has even adopted the “bog juice” nickname for one of their recent advertising campaigns: