62 DESIGN NEW ENGLAND NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013
Demanding to grow but easy to love, the cranberry endures as a mainstay of New England agriculture
written by bruce irving • photographed by bob o’connor
New England attracts its visitors with all sorts of charms — historic architecture, spectacular foli- age, and beautiful beaches are among the classics. But for the cranberry, it was the bogs that sealed the deal. This humble member of the heather fam- ily moved in after the glaciers retreated, their icy
remnants forming kettle holes — clay-lined, water-filled depressions
that slowly filled with decaying organic matter, leaving an acidic brew
the new flora found irresistible.
In its natural state, the cranberry wants only to hang out on the
squishy edge of a nice protected bog in the woods, sheltered from cold
winds and blazing sun, cozied up with its friends the sphagnum mosses
and bog-mat liverworts. That’s where the Native Americans found the
deep red berries, using them medicinally, for dye, or grinding them up
for a key ingredient — along with meat and fat — in pemmican, the
original energy bar.
Scholars are fairly sure that cranberries were on the tables at the
first Thanksgiving in 1621, almost certainly fresh and without sweeten-
ing. After all, Plymouth, Massachusetts, was, and remains, in the heart
of cranberry country. However, Cape Cod can claim the first cultivated
wooden boxes hold cranberries
that have been dry picked at A.D.
Makepeace Co. in Wareham,
Massachusetts. They will be sold
as fresh fruit.
online more photos of the cranberry harvest