Here Is the Rather Sweet History Behind the Cranberry Tart

Thanksgiving is upon us, which means that many people will start to see the tart with that red fruit that is on most menus – the cranberry. Whether it’s a cranberry sauce, jelly, or some other kind of treat that you’re going to consume, it’s only right that you know more about the fruit and its history.

Cranberry Bag
Here Is the Rather Sweet History Behind the Cranberry Tart

The Cranberry Family

The cranberry is a member of the Ericaceae family, which is also known as the Heather family. The fruit is related to other berries such as blueberries, huckleberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas. Typically, members of this family like to grow in moist and acidic growing conditions, which is why Wisconsin is the largest state to produce cranberries, while Massachusetts and New Jersey come in second and third.

There are a few different kinds or species of cranberry, and the one that is cultivated in the U.S. is Vaccinium macrocarpon. This is a small evergreen shrub that is strings down on the ground. In late spring, the shrubs produce clusters of long and pink flowers.

The cranberry fruit has tiny air-filled chambers called bladders, and they also have a waxy coating, which allows them to float. They have a great source of vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber.

The History of Cranberries

Native Americans often used cranberries raw, and they also cooked them as food, for medicine, and dye. Today, the cranberry is commonly part of American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus, as well as English Christmas dinners.

Farming and harvesting cranberries
Here Is the Rather Sweet History Behind the Cranberry Tart

The commercial farming and harvesting of the fruit today is similar to what it was like back in the 1800s. The land is leveled and surrounded by earthen dikes to create boggy conditions. This is what allows the growers to regulate the water level based on the stage of growth they’re in. After 3 to 4 years of planting the stem cuttings, they begin to produce fruit. Harvesting can be done in a wet or dry method, and the wet is the most common.

The wet harvesting method involves flooding the bogs just above the vines and then using mechanical water reels on the vines to shake the berries loose. Since the cranberry can float, they are then pushed to the side and into trucks.