We’ve featured a post solely dedicated to cranberry bogs in the past, and have also seen some of the classic holiday sauce as part of a Thanksgiving art celebration. Now, with Thanksgiving Day coming up in the United States on Thursday, we’re learning even more about the North American fruit from Science Friday’s Thanksgiving Science Spotlight:
There are certain things that might come to mind when thinking about cranberries: A certain shade of red, a certain small size, and a certain kind of tartness. But these characteristics can differ among cranberry varieties—of which there are more than 100, according to Carolyn DeMoranville, an associate extension professor and station director at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Cranberry Station.
The standard measurement for cranberries is barrels, which harkens back to when cranberries were shipped in wooden containers. Today, one barrel equates to 100 pounds of weight. The heirloom cultivars in production today yield, at best, around 200 barrels per acre, amounting to about 9 million cranberries, estimates DeMoranville. Newer, hybrid cultivars have been known to produce 500-600 barrels per acre, says DeMoranville—the plants are bigger, with larger leaves, and they produce more berries that are bigger and heavier.
It takes about three years to build a crop of cranberries to full production potential, says DeMoranville. There are some cranberry plots in Massachusetts that have been around for more than 100 years.