How Are American Cranberries Grown?: Origin, Distribution, & Use 2022

American Cranberry

Kingdom:        Plantae

(unranked):     Angiosperms

(unranked):     Eudicots

(unranked):     Asterids

Order:             Ericales

Family:            Ericaceae

Genus:            Vaccinium

Subgenus:      Oxycoccos

Scientific name

Vaccinium corymbosum

Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines that belong to the genus Vaccinium subgenus Oxycoccos or, according to some classification systems, to the separate genus Oxycoccos. Cranberries are native to North America. Bogs with an acidic pH are the best places to look for them in the more temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere.
Cranberries are low, creeping bushes or vines that may grow up to 2 meters in length and range in height from 5 to 20 centimeters; their stems are thin and wiry and are not heavily woody; their leaves are tiny and evergreen. The petals of the flowers are reflexed in a very peculiar manner, leaving the style and stamens totally exposed and facing forward. The blooms have a deep pink color. Domestic honey bees are responsible for pollination of these plants. The fruit is a berry that is much bigger than the leaves of the plant; it begins its life as a white color but transforms into a dark crimson hue when it is completely mature. It may be eaten, although the tartness of the flavor might sometimes overpower the sweetness.

Cranberries are an important crop for the economy of a number of states in the United States and provinces in Canada (see cultivation and uses below). The vast majority of cranberries are used in the production of finished goods such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries, while the remaining cranberries are offered to customers in their fresh form. Cranberry sauce is considered an essential component of the traditional Thanksgiving meals served in the United States and Canada, as well as those served during winter celebrations in Europe. Cranberries have achieved the commercial status of “superfruit” since the early 21st century within the global functional food industry due to the popularity of consumer products containing cranberries, the nutrient content of cranberries, and the antioxidant qualities of cranberries. This recognition has been rapidly growing since the early 21st century.

Species, as well as their descriptions

Cranberries may be broken down into two categories, depending on how many species there are: Oxycoccos is the section of the subgenus Oxycoccos.

  • Common Cranberry, also known as Oxycoccos palustris, is a species of Vaccinium that is native to the chilly temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This includes northern Europe, northern Asia, and northern North America. The leaves are just 5–10 millimeters in size. The blooms have a dark pink petal with a purple spike in the center and are grown on stems that are coarsely hairy. The fruit is a little berry that is light pink in color and has a taste that is both sharp and acidic.
  • Small Cranberry, also known as Vaccinium microcarpum or Oxycoccos microcarpus, may be found in northern Europe and northern Asia. This species of cranberry varies from V. oxycoccus in that its leaves are more triangular, and its flower stalks are hairless. It is classified by some botanists as a member of the V. oxycoccos genus.
  • Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccos macrocarpus, often known as large cranberries, American cranberries, or bearberries, are North American plants that are endemic to the northeastern region (eastern Canada, and the eastern United States, south to North Carolina at high altitudes). It varies from V. oxycoccus in that its leaves are bigger, measuring 10–20 mm in length, and in that it has a flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of apples.

History and the origin of words

Cranberry is derived from the word “cranberry,” which was given to the plant by the first Europeans to settle in what is now the United States. These early settlers thought the growing blossom, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and beak of a crane. Moss berry is another name for this plant that is utilized in northern Canada. The old English name for Vaccinium oxycoccos is fenberry, which was derived from plants that were discovered growing in marshlands known as fens. Cranberries grown in New England in the 17th century were commonly referred to as “bearberries” due to the fact that bears were frequently seen eating them.

Cranberries were initially used as food in North America by indigenous peoples before Europeans arrived. Cranberries were used by Native Americans in a wide range of cuisines, most notably in the preparation of pemmican, wound treatment, and dye. Cranberries may have been brought to famished English settlers in Massachusetts by locals who called the red berries Sassamanash. These settlers then added cranberries into the annual Thanksgiving feasts that they observed. Henry Hall, a soldier of the American Revolutionary War, is credited with being the first person to grow cranberries in the town of Dennis on Cape Cod in the year 1816. Cranberries first began to be exported to Europe in the 1820s. In recent years, natural picking of cranberries has gained popularity in Russia and the Nordic nations. Berries used to be collected in the wild in Scotland; but, due to the destruction of their natural environment, the plants have become so rare that this practice is no longer practiced.

Geography and bog method

Cranberries are an important crop for the economies of the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin in the United States, as well as the provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Quebec in Canada. Cranberries are also grown in large quantities in the state of Washington in the United States. The Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture reports that Wisconsin is the main producer of cranberries in the United States, accounting for more than half of the total output. With 28 percent of the overall output in the country, Massachusetts is the second-largest producer in the United States. The southern regions of Argentina and Chile, the Netherlands, and Eastern Europe all contribute a very tiny amount to global output.

Historically, cranberry beds were established in areas that were moist and marshy. At this time, cranberry beds are often developed in upland regions that include low water tables. It is necessary to remove the topsoil in order to construct the dykes that will surround the bed. A depth of between four and eight inches is achieved by hauling in clean sand. The topography has been precisely leveled using a laser to ensure uniform drainage. In addition to the ditch that surrounds the bed, sock tile is usually used to facilitate drainage. In addition to making it feasible to store water, the dykes make it possible for machinery to maintain the beds without driving on the grapes. This is a significant benefit. In order to provide watering for the development of the vines and to protect them from frost in the spring and fall, irrigation equipment is put in the bed.


The best way to propagate cranberry vines is to move existing plants from an established bed. A blunt disk is used to press the vines into the sand of the new bed once they have been spread out on the surface of the sand there. A consistent amount of water is provided to the vines over the first few weeks as they establish roots and send forth new shoots. During the first growing season, beds get many mild applications of nitrogen fertilizer on a regular basis. It is predicted that the cost of establishing additional cranberry beds will be around US$70,000 per hectare, which is equivalent to approximately $28,300 per acre.

The idea that the cranberry beds are always submerged in water is a widespread fallacy that exists in connection with the industry. Cranberry beds are not submerged in water throughout the growing season; rather, they need consistent irrigation in order to keep the soil wet. In the fall, the beds are flooded to make harvesting easier, and they are flooded again in the winter to preserve the plants from the low temperatures. The winter flood will generally turn into ice in cold regions like Wisconsin and eastern Canada, while the water will continue to be liquid in milder climates like Massachusetts and Wisconsin. When the beds get covered in ice, vehicles may be driven over the ice to distribute a thin coating of sand that serves to combat pests and revitalize the vines. This helps to keep the vines healthy. The sanding process is repeated every three to five years on average.


Cranberries are picked in the autumn, when the fruit has developed its characteristic dark red color and is ready for harvesting. This often occurs from the beginning of September all the way until the middle of November. In order to harvest cranberries, the beds must first be wet to a depth of between six and eight inches above the vines. To extract the fruit off the vines, a harvester is pushed through the beds of the plantation. For the last half a century, harvesters of the water reel kind have been in use. Cranberries that have been harvested float in the water and may be herded towards a certain area of the bed, where they can then be carried or pumped out of the bed. Cranberries are transported from the farm to receiving stations, where they are washed, sorted, and kept before being packaged or processed.

Although the majority of cranberries are harvested using the wet method as mentioned above, between 5 and 10 percent of the crop in the US is still harvested using the dry method. Dry-picked berries are less likely to be damaged, so they may be sold as fresh fruit rather than needing to be immediately frozen or processed after being harvested. However, this results in greater labor expenses and a lower yield. Dry picking was once done with comb scoops that required two hands, but now it is done using motorized, walk-behind harvesters that must be tiny enough to cross beds without injuring the vines.

Cranberries destined for fresh markets are kept in shallow bins or boxes with bottoms that are either perforated or slatted to promote air circulation and prevent the berries from rotting. Cranberries that are destined for fresh markets are often kept in barns with high walls and without artificial refrigeration since the harvest takes place in the late fall. Vents in the barn are opened and closed according to the requirements in order to achieve the desired temperature range. Shortly after being received at a receiving station, the cranberries that are headed for processing are typically placed in bulk containers and frozen.

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