Cranberry Harvest

Kathy here….

Autumn in New England is cranberry harvest time.  I live right across the street from the cranberry bog my husband’s grandfather built.  Actually it was one of many he had.  This cranberry bog was made on the site of a maple swamp and was built around 1900.  First the maple swamp is cleared and ditches for drainage are dug.  Then sand is put down and last the vines are planted.  Cranberries are a ground cover type plant.  Back then this was all done by hand and with the help of horses.  He also built a three story screenhouse.  A screenhouse was where the separators were kept and berries were separated.  It was also used for storage of tools, cranberries and cranberry crates.  Over the last century there have been many changes in the way cranberry bogs are cared for and the berries are picked.


In the winter there is not a lot to be done with the bogs.  They are flooded to protect the vines.  When the bogs freeze over they make for great skating which is relatively safe because the water is not as deep as a pond.  Once every seven years or so, the bogs are sanded.  These little bog buggies take loads of sand out onto the ice and spread it. As the days start to warm the water is let off the bog and the ice collapses, begins to melt and the sand replenish the sand that has been washed away over the years. 


In the spring the bogs are checked for bugs.  Then pesticides and fertilizer is put into the sprinkler system.  These can also be applied by spraying.  This is usually done by helicopter.  There is nothing like being awakened at 05:30 by a helicopter hovering and turning at treetop level over your house.  They usually make three passes each direction for our bog.


In late June the vines are in bloom which means the arrival of the honey bees.  The bees arrive after dark and the hives are located off to the side of the bog.  They are usually there for two or three week.  This is usually not the best time to take a walk around the bog depending exactly where the bees are located. Once the bees have done their job the hives are loaded on to a truck after dark and taken to their next job or back to the bee keeper.  The transport of the bees is done after dark because the majority of the bees are in the hive then.

There is a deer in the center of this picture.


Now it is high summer and the tasks at hand are to keep the bogs watered and the weeds at bay.  Most bogs have the land around them cut back.  This provides better air flow, more sunshine and keeps unwanted seeds from finding a place to sprout. 


In early September the early varieties start to ripen and over the next six weeks or so all the others will follow.  In the days when the bogs were picked by hand there were several varieties planted in a bog in different sections.  This allowed the pickers to work over a period of time to get the crop in.  The cranberry scoop has tines on the end and they comb the vines pulling the berries into the scoop.  Then they were dumped into crates or canvas or burlap sacks.  The picker was usually on his or her knees while picking it was hard work.  After the berries were picked they were taken to the screenhouse.  Here there is the separator, a conveyor belt machine.  The berries would ride along the belt and were shaken and caused to bounce. They had to bounce their way through the machine.  Any berry that did not bounce was bad and pulled of the line.  Then the berries were put into crates and taken off to market.  My husband’s grandfather used to store his berries in the basement of the screen house and sell them later in the season when people wanted them for Thanksgiving. 

                                                                           This scoop has the screen on the top side missing.

In the late 1960’s things changed.  A lot of the bogs went to being water picked.  The cranberry bog is flooded and these machines are pushed over them. They have paddles like a waterwheel and they beat the water which shakes the vines and the berries fall off and float to the top.  There are also larger ones that are driven over the bog.  The berries are then corralled.  Once the berries are corralled they are pushed onto a conveyor belt or now a days sucked up a tube and put in the back of a truck.  Then it’s off to Ocean Spray to become Juice or Cranberry Sauce.  These berries are also used for any product that has cooked berries in them.  Water picked berries are always processed because they can not be dried efficiently to be sold fresh.


here are still berries dry picked.  That is an obvious statement as you know you can buy fresh berries in the produce section of the grocery.  Times have changed in the way these are picked.  There is a machine that is pushed over the dry bog.  It has a comb like front at the bottom and this combs the vines. Then these berries are pushed on to an escalator type part of the machine that lifts them up into an attached container.  The container may be a crate or a bag depending on the machine.  No more getting down on hands and knees. 


There is one other interesting thing about bog maintenance.  The drainage ditches do get clogged.  Workers will dig them out putting the debris onto the bog.  This is then loaded onto slings.  A helicopter will hover over the area and the worker will attach a cable to the sling.  The helicopter will then fly off to the land around the bog and dump the sling.  I’m sure there are many other ways of performing this task, but it was done this way on our bog.


So now that I have told you how the cranberries get to your market, what do you like to do with this beautiful red fruit?

For some good videos please follow the below links.




Wet caranberry harvest





Flying cranberries




Cranberry Harvest


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58 responses to “Cranberry Harvest

  1. Mary Preston

    I have never eaten cranberries, I don’t count the suspect blobs they put in cereal. This is fascinating. I never knew about the bogs, for example. I hope you don’t mind if I share this with my mother.

  2. I doin’t think any Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner is complete without cranberry jelly!! I love it by itself, with the turkey dinner… or over and over again with the many left over “treats”. I also like cranberry juice for staying nice and healthy!

  3. Kathy Garuti


  4. Leah Weller

    I can’t get the two guys in the commercial out of my mind :)

    This was such a good post, Kathy! It is interesting how they harvest these. I love the juice but I’m not much into the fresh fruit. Odd huh? I’m the same way with a banana. I love the taste, just don’t like the texture in my mouth.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Leah I know what you mean. They are cute in there down home way but in no way represent the true grower. These guys are super enviromentalist and politically savey. They are always going to Congress to balance wetlands ledgislation and such. They definately are the sharp tools in the tool shed.

      I am not one to grab a handful of berries of the bog and start eating – to tart for me. I love them in everything though and even fresh in salads and such.

  5. Kathy, I loved this post! Absolutely fascinating. You are so blessed to live up there. All the history and the cranberry culture, too. Adore the picture of Harvest with the cranberries. By the way, the cranberries kind of remind of how heather colors the Scottish landscape. Your area is also dressed in a blush of color in the autumn. :)

    The videos are a great touch, too. It’s so neat you can add them to the blog now.

    I enjoy cranberry muffins and bread in addition to the usual accompaniment to turkey. Always make my own cranberry sauce rather than buying it readymade. Also drink the juice year-round.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Thanks, Sue-Ellen, I love being around the cranberry business. I do wish we were still in it to a certain extent. If you love autumn as you and I do this is the best place in the world to be.

      When we took that picture of Harvest I knew I had to share her with the Tarts.

      I love including the videos as they add so much that I want now to get a camera for that. I had eight or nine YouTube videos and went back and chopped it the four that most closely suited my needs.

      Cranberries as an every day food have really taken off in the last twenty-five years,

  6. Whitney

    Thank you for such an interesting blog. I have lived in New England all my life and have seen cranberry bogs but have never known much of what you showed us. My two favorite cranberry recipes which are both requested often are for cranberry-almond biscotti (dried cranberries) and cranberry pork chops (whole, fresh cranberries).
    Though I will share the biscotti recipe I save the pork chop recipe for guests to have at my table.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Hi Whitney,

      I am so glad I did this post. It is a crop that few people really know about. Even though I have never worded directly in the cranberry business the rhythm of the bog has been a big part of my life. Your recipes sound wonderful. It is good to hold one close as yourown special one. Just make sure to give it to someone once you are not cooking any more.

    • I agree with Kathy, Whitney. You recipes sound amazing. I’d love to try the cranberry-almond biscotti. And cranberry pork chops! M’mmm…

  7. Maude

    I really enjoyed this post. It is amazing to see the pictures and here you tell the tale of the bog. I love cranberries and use them during the fall. Cranberries and orange muffins are my favorite.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Hi Maude, glad you liked the post. It is fun sharing things from New England. Cranberry and orange go together so well. My cranberry orange bread is an adaptation of a recipe off the back of the Pilsbury flour bag from 1973 or 1974. It was suposted to be a ring instead of a loaf. To much of a pain so I turned it into a loaf.

    • It’s a fabulous post, isn’t it, Maude? I really enjoyed it, too. Cranberry and orange muffins are so good. :)

  8. Mary M

    Good Morning! :)

    I LOVE cranberries! They are a part of my meals almost all year round, from dried in my oatmeal, to cranberry orange scones. Also, I just found a recipe last week for Curried Chicken with fresh and dried Cranberries. I am making it next week, so I’ll let you know how it turns out. Of course, I do have a small glass of juice with my breakfast every day, too.

    Thank you Kathy for giving us a history lesson in the cranberry. So very fascinating, and beautiful. I just love learning something new! ;)

    • Kathy Garuti

      Oh Mary please do let us know about that recipe. I love curry and I can see cranberries going nicely with curry.

      I love history and I love learning something new, so to be able to give almost everyone in the tea room a look at something they don’t know a lot about is a very nice feeling. You are most welcome.

  9. Cathy P

    Thanks for such an interesting and informative post, Kathy. I had never really thought about how cranberries were grown or gathered, but it is a very interesting process. I don’t think I would want a helicopter going over the house at 5:30 am though. Lol! The pictures were beautiful.

  10. Kathy Garuti

    Your welcome Cathy. Our lives are so busy now days and so full of information that we don’t have time to wonder any more. So it is nice to present something like this.

    Your right about the helicopter. We could live without its 5:30 visits. :)

  11. Marguerite Guinn

    Thanks for the info on the harvest of cranberries. I was raised on a farm and can tell you all about wheat, corn, milo and hay, but never knew exactly how cranberries were harvested! It was very interesting.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Marguerite you are welcome. I grew up in the midwest and was used to those crops as well. It wasn’t until we moved here in 1975 tht I really learned about cranberries.

    • Marquerite, I was spell-bound, too. Your background in farming would also interest me (and so many of us). It’s wonderful to learn about such things. Wonderful to learn something new. (I had to look up milo, for instance) Now I know what it is. :)

  12. Diane Sallans

    Thanks Kathy – that was incredibly informative, plus had personal experiences. We have cranberry bogs in NJ too, so have seen stories about them on occasion, but have never actually seen on in person. And you wrote such a great description of the processes.
    I love cranberry sauce/jelly. The family likes the plain, jelly kind, which is fine, but I’ve always loved Cranberry/Orange relish. Oceanspray used to make one plus another with raspberries, bu they seem to have discontinued it. I did pick up a jar of Cranberry relish at the Christmas Tree shops & it has orange in it – guess I need to get more since Oceanspray doesn’t have it anymore. Or maybe if I get ambitious I can try making some myself. Would cranberry/orange relish freeze or would I need to “can” it? Since I may be the only one eating it, it may take me a while to eat even asmall batch myself.

  13. Kathy Luehrs

    oh wow – how lucky you are to be right there – I love cranberries – I have only recently been eating the dried ones – love them in baking and salads – I live in MN they are yummy in wild rice

    • Kathy Garuti

      Kathy I do feel lucky to be right across from a bog. It is a great place for a walk except the day I took the two pictures of the last truck off our bog this year. Not only is Eric growing the berries he is also mining the sand at the back of the bog. There are trucks coming and going from 7 AM til 4 Pm. I go caught in the traffic jam on the bog road. I at least could move off into a small bit where the trucks weren’t going. I was on foot. This young man Eric is an example of the caliber of men growing cranberries. He as an agricultural degree and another in architecture and he is a licenced builder. He was buying and flipping houses a few years back.

    • Wasn’t this a fabulous post, Kathy? You’re so right… dried cranberries are incredible. I love them in salads, too. And baking. Just delicious. Haven’t tried them in wild rice, but will. I love wild rice. Great tip. Thanks. :)

  14. Karen C

    Kathy, this was a great post! I really enjoy cranberries, so it was interesting to hear about your bogs. I seem to like cranberries in most formats (fresh, juice, dried), but really like using the dried in salads. The pictures were great, especially Harvest – she’s so pretty! Thaks for the taste of the NE!

    • Kathy Garuti

      You are most welcome Karen. Harvest is a pretty girl, but then I’m her nana. Cranberries have really made it into the American diet. I am so glad everyone likes this post.

    • It was a great post, wasn’t it, Karen? And you had such a neat tip for lovely and easy to do Christmas gifts. That’s a fabulous idea. The jars would like like ruby red jewels. So pretty.

      I love dried cranberries in salads, too. Had some in a salad tonight for dinner, in fact. :)

    • Harvest is pretty, isn’t she? I’m so happy Kathy (and her family) have her. And that Harvest has them. A win-win all around. :)

  15. Kathy, what a super post! I didn’t know that fresh cranberries were harvested differently. I just assumed that they were all wet harvested. I’ve always thought that the process was fascinating. But I didn’t know the part about sanding.

    Thank you for the edification and education! Lucky you, to live so close to such a beautiful area.

    • Kathy Garuti

      Thanks Karen! It seems everyone has enjoyed learning more about this industry. Where cranberries are only grown four places in this country it is not the most viewed crop but probably is one of the most intereseting to watch being harvested.

    • I loved the post, too, Karen. Fascinating. I love learning and this was fabulous. I didn’t know any of this (except that cranberries grew in bogs and were wet-harvested) Extent of my knowledge, which was less than a sliver of what we’ve all learned today. :)

  16. Cindi Streicher

    Thanks for the info on cranberries. we have a lot of them here in the northern part of Wisconsin but I’ve never been up there to learn about them.

  17. Kathy Garuti

    Hi Cindi, the Wisconsin growers have a wonderful site I found while looking for pictures of equipment. From what I can see those growers have a lot of the fun things that our growers here sponser. It might be worth a day trip some time for you.

  18. Kathy, again… this was FABULOUS!!! Well done. Hats off to Harvest, too. That’s such a darling photo of her. She looks so happy. That’s so wonderful to see.

    Sorry to get in here so late today. I’ve had server issues off and on all day. Couldn’t get online or in email, nothing until now.

    Loved your post!! :)

  19. Ivy D

    Really interesting, Kathy. I love cranberries. The juice, dried, canned cranberry sauce…yummy.

  20. Wow, Kathy, this was very interesting. The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival this year includes a cranberry exhibit. I had no idea until we visited it that the cranberries are flooded to harvest… Your pics really brought it home as their small bog at EPCOT is tiny compared to the one in your pics. Thanks!

  21. I like jellied cranberry sauce. When I was going in to the hospital for my iron infusions I had a turkey sanwhich and they put a slice of cranberry sauce in it. I had never had it that way and was surprised it tasted so good. This year I plan on having it on a few after Thanksgiving day sandwitches. YUM!

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