Cranberry Nutrition, Selection, Storage & Availability
Cranberries are one of three berries that are native to the US and offer a heap of nutritional benefits to consumers. The tangy fruit is used whole in serving and for several recipes from desserts to an entrée relish, trail mixes, and more. The cranberry is low in calories and contains nutrients, antioxidants and bacteria-blocking agents. Research shows consumption of cranberries helps prevent urinary tract infections, ulcers, gum disease, certain cancers and more. Cranberries can be stored frozen whole or sliced and will keep for nearly one year when sealed in an airtight container. Cranberries are typically available (buying direct) between September - October every year.
Wisconsin produces about 300 million pounds of cranberries every year, making it the No. 1 producer in the nation. The four main varieties include Ben Lear, Stevens, Searles, and McFarlins. This industry provides employment for over 7,000 people and contributes over $300 million to the state's economy. Wisconsin cranberry production began in 1853 and is thriving today with 250 growers in 20 counties. Cranberries need water and sand, and are grown in peat swamps or marshes where the soil is acidic in nature. This industry occupies more than 140,000 acres, but only 18,000 acres actually support the growing crop. The production of cranberries requires "support land" which includes networks of ditches, dikes, dams, and reservoirs that provide flooding control, filter and recycled water. These wetlands are a welcome habitat to Wisconsin wildlife, much of them rare and endangered species.
Prior to the cranberry-flower blossoming, the flower and stem resemble the neck, head and bill of a crane. Legend has it that early settlers knew it as the "craneberry" because of this image. The blossoms last ten to twelve days, (depending on the weather) in June, and harvest follows in late September/October.
It takes approximately one ton of vines per acre to plant a cranberry bog, and for an acre of bog that is one inch deep, there are 27,154 gallons of water during harvesting. It will take four to five years for a bed to produce a full crop of cranberries. After harvesting, 12-15% of the crop is sold as fresh fruit, while the rest is used for bi-products like juice, pulp, and more.
Information from the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection, the Cranberry Marketing Committee and the Cranberry Institute.
Wisconsin Growing Season Guide