A Day in the Life of a Cranberry


Native wild cranberries of Wisconsin

Native wild cranberries of Wisconsin

This is a story about Wisconsin native cranberries. My sister, Ronnie Hohos, and I were traveling towards Hayward, on Route 77, in October 2011. A cranberry bog was on the left. You couldn’t miss it. The water was red with floating cranberries. We both wanted to see the operation. I turned the minivan around and headed back to the bog. The cranberry business is owned and operated by the Zawistowski family. Wisconsin has the largest cranberry harvests in the country, an average of 60 percent comes from Wisconsin.

Men working in the marsh with berries.

Men working in the marsh with berries.

During the growing season, the berries grow on vines close to the ground. At harvest time, the bogs are flooded. Men on harvesting machines rake the vines to loosen the cranberries.  It was exciting to see the work. Many people stopped their cars and with camera in hand, watched as men worked in a coordinated rhythm. I think the men must be proud to be harvesting a wild edible fruit that feeds so many people during the holidays. Nets were cast out upon the water. Men in the water, dressed in hip boots, raked cranberries towards a waiting truck. The cranberries were herded toward a long moving conveyer belt. The berries went up the belt into a truck bed. When a truck was full, the driver drove the truck to the next processing stage.

Making sure berries are clean of chocking weeds and flowing smoothly up the belt.

Making sure berries are clean of chocking weeds and flowing smoothly up the belt.

Trucks waited in turn to unload berries. A woman kept the conveyer belt free of weeds, while clean berries were downloaded from the marsh truck. Then the cranberries were conveyed up to a delivery truck. The cranberries were now ready to be transported to a warehouse. At the warehouse, cranberries would be cleaned, dried, cooled, and frozen for processing. Fresh fruit was also transported to warehouses where it is cleaned, dried, cooled and delivered for sale.

Cranberries going to a warehouse.

Cranberries going to a warehouse.

What would Thanksgiving be without cranberries? I bought five pounds of fresh cranberries and bagged them, by cupful, into zip lock bags. The berries are in my freezer. I can cook and bake with cranberries, all winter long. Cranberries are good for health. The dark hard fruit contains large amounts of vitamin C. Cranberries are used for urinary tract infection. The berry acidifies the urine and prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder (Balch, 1997).

Old conveyor from years past.

Old conveyor from years past.

According to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, cranberries contain hippuric acid, which has antibacterial effects on the body, as well as natural antibiotic ingredients. Cranberries may help with atherosclerosis, which is a primary cause of cardiovascular disease. Cranberries minimize the formation of dental plaque. The use of cranberries may be beneficial in the prevention of ulcers, which are linked to stomach cancer and acid reflux disease. To maintain good kidney health, the National Kidney Foundation recommends one large glass of cranberry juice a day.

When I bake berry pies, which is quite frequently in winter, I always add a cup of cranberries. Strawberries are sweet and when added to cranberries, blueberries, and apples, I don’t need to add much sugar. That’s the point. I want to eat berries for health, but not have to pay the price of sugar in my diet. When I use sweeter berries with cranberries it helps sweeten the pie. The juices are rich and colorful. I always add a little organic tapioca to help thicken the pie. It works.

One of my favorite foods is craisins. I buy mine from the cranberry marsh because it takes an average of 6 – 8 hours to bake the berry dry. One can make lots of recipes with cranberries. My sister bought a copy of the Zawistowski Family Cookbook, which she gave to me. One of the recipes, in the book, I learned from, Sheila, the cook at the Minong Senior Center. She adds craisins to meatloaf and it is good. I started making meatloaf using organic grass fed beef, with craisis, and I love it. To learn more about health benefits of cranberries visit at www.cranberryinstitute.org.

It wouldn’t be Wisconsin if we didn’t have an outhouse. Yes, it is probably a relic but then again, maybe not.

Outhouse relic from the past.

Outhouse relic from the past.

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