This week’s fresh pick is the tasty cranberry. Fresh cranberries are crisp and tart, while dried cranberries are softer and sweeter. Whichever one you prefer, cranberries are a versatile food that can add great flavour and nutrition to both sweet and savoury dishes.
According to the BC Cranberry Growers’ Association, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island produce over 82 million pounds of cranberries each year. Most of the cranberries grown in BC make their way to the well known company, Ocean Spray, to be dried or made into juice. In fact, about 90% of BC’s cranberries are exported to the USA.
Season and Harvest
As you might expect, cranberries are harvested in the fall, from mid-September to mid-November. Cranberries do not grow on a bush or tree, but rather on low-growing vines. They are harvested by two methods: wet and dry. Wet harvesting involves flooding the cranberry fields the night before the harvest, allowing for easier collection of the cranberries. Specialized machinery churns the water (kind of like an egg beater) loosening the cranberries from the stems. The cranberries float to the surface of the water, and are then collected. Dry harvesting is done either by hand or with machinery, but no water is used. The cranberries are just plucked directly from the plants.
There are only a few weeks left of the Vancouver Farmers Markets, where you can pick up some fresh cranberries (just in time for Thanksgiving). The winter market starts up November 1st, and you might even be able to pick some up there too. For my friends on Vancouver Island, Yellow Point Cranberries, just outside of Ladysmith is open 7 days a week until December. Be sure to check them out!
How to Store Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are very firm to the touch and should bounce when dropped (although I don’t recommend testing this out at the market). They will range in colour from light to dark red. You can store cranberries in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to two months. Be sure to check the bag often though, as one spoiled berry will ruin the whole bunch.
What to Make with Cranberries
I highly recommend skipping the can and giving fresh, homemade cranberry sauce or compote a try this Thanksgiving. Dried cranberries make a great addition to salads or as a topping to steel cut oats. Here are some other recipes using fresh cranberries:
- Spiced Cranberry Jam
- Apple Cranberry Crisp
- Cranberry Cheesecake
- Savory Cheddar and Cranberry Soda Bread
What’s your favorite way to enjoy cranberries?