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Friday, September 14, 2012

Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest 2012

Photo of Cranberries on the vine
Some people think the ‘season’ on Cape Cod ends on Labor Day, when many Cape Cod residents wave goodbye from the overpasses on Route 6 as tourist stream home. For us at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast, we are just swinging into our fall season, which many of our guests think is nicer than the summer season because the weather is still great, the crowds are gone, and there are great things to do. Take Cranberry festivals for an example of unique and truly Cape Cod experience that does not involve the beach and sand. 

Fall is harvest time in any agriculture community and the cranberry is the Cape’s number one farm product. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the largest growers of cranberries in the United States, with over 900 bogs and 14,000 acres in the Southeastern part of the state, more than half of which are right here on Cape Cod. Cranberries have been an essential food crop since the Pilgrims landed 20 miles north of here in 1620. The Native American Indians introduced them to this versatile little fruit that they used for everything from creating colorful clothing dyes to a powerful healing potion. A fact I find interesting is that the cranberry is one of only three fruits indigenous to North America. The other two are Concord grapes and blueberries. All three are native to our New England state.  


Cranberry harvesting usually starts after Labor Day and, depending on the weather, can go through late October and early November. The berries grow on short evergreen shrubs in ‘bogs’, which are flat sandy rectangular plots surrounded by dykes. During the summer, the shrubs turn from a dull brownish color to a dark green. Most are harvested by what is known as the ‘wet-picked’ method, where the bogs are flooded and the red berries float to the top. The berries are loosened from the vines and corralled to a corner of the bog to be pumped out for processing. We have all seen the Ocean Spray commercial with the two men standing in water surrounded by floating berries. It does look something like that. During the harvest season it is fun to drive along 6A or down the back roads off 6A, and come around the corner to see the brilliant patchwork of squares of green and red as the bogs of the lush green plants are flooded and the ripe bright red fruit floats on top of the water. Great information about the cranberry industry is available from  the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.

The cranberry harvesting season is not only a visual delight, but a fun time as festivals and special events around the Cape celebrate the bounty all during September and October. The town of Harwich is credited with establishing the commercial cranberry industry on the Cape in 1847. Harwich’s relationship with the berry continues with their annual Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival Saturday and Sunday, September 15th  and 16th. See their website for details of their ‘Cran-Jam’ music line up and parade schedule.

Photo of Jam Making Class
Jam Making at Green Briar
On October 6th you can actually make your own cranberry jam at the 1903 Jam Kitchen at the Green Briar Nature Center, a mile or so down the road from our Inn. The Centers’ bogs and ponds served as the inspiration for the stories of the famous children’s book author, Thornton W. Burgess. On a stroll of their nature trails and wild flower gardens you may see a descendent of Peter Rabbit or Peter Cottontail.

Also, the weekend of October 6th and 7th is the 9th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration, sponsored by the A.D. Makepeace Company and the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association. The two-day event features cranberry bog tours, helicopter rides, pony rides, cooking demonstrations, juried crafters and artisans, and musical performances. A.D. Makepeace Company is one of the largest growers in Southeastern Mass and located just across the canal in Wareham.   

Come and stay at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast anytime and we will you tell you where our local Sandwich bogs are so you can see one for yourself. We can also help you set up bog tour with at the Cape Cod Bog and Farm in Harwich. Jan may also be cooking up some of her tastey cranberry bread to help celebrate the harvest. 

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper's Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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