The first cranberries on the west coast were planted near Long Beach, Washington in the 1880’s. Today, there are about 120 cranberry growers in Washington. They are family farmers with an average of ten to twenty acres. Most of the farms have been passed down through the generations. The majority are near Long Beach and Grayland in Pacific and Grays Harbor Counties. There are a few beds near Lynden in Whatcom County.
Washington is the 5th largest cranberry growing state in the nation. Wisconsin grows the most, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon then Washington. Washington grows about 1700 acres of cranberries. The photo shows Washington cranberries just beginning to ripen.
Cranberries are an evergreen vine. A cranberry bed can remain productive for over 50 years if protected from insects and diseases. One bog planted in 1891 near Copalis is still in production today. Cranberry bogs support wetlands. Where cranberries grow, you will find bald eagles, osprey, great blue heron, deer, amphibians, bumblebees and migratory birds. Cranberry plants will not produce berries unless they are pollinated by bumblebees or honey bees.
Fresh cranberries can be found from September to December. They should appear deep red, plump, firm, and unbruised. Like all fruits and vegetables, they should be washed just before eating. Storage: Cranberries will stay fresh in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one month. Cranberries freeze beautifully. Wrap them in an airtight bag, squeeze out excess air, and they will keep for almost a year. Do not defrost when adding them to a recipe. (What’s Cooking America)
Fresh or frozen cranberries can be prepared by cooking until the skins “pop” or split. Most recipes include sugar since cranberries are very tart!
Cranberries can also be eaten raw – usually ground with orange and spices and plenty of sugar. This cranberry relish is most commonly served for Thanksgiving, but it is also delicious in yogurt or served with chicken or pork.
Many fruits and flavors combine well with cranberries, try oranges, apples, pears, ginger, cinnamon or cardamom.
Cranberries are high in antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Cranberries may also prevent ulcers. Cranberries are available fresh, in juice, sauce, and dried. One gallon ofjuice contains 3,333 cranberries.
(What’s Cooking America)