Berry beautiful

A look at how those cranberries go from bog to your Thanksgiving table.

They look like carpets of rubies. Each fall, sandy cranberry fields - "bogs" - are flooded. These bright red berries coat the water's surface after machines known as "egg beaters" have loosened them from their vines. Growers harvest millions of pounds of cranberries using this method, called wet harvesting. After they're gathered, these wet-harvested cranberries are used to make juices and sauces.

In dry harvesting, fields are not flooded. Instead, growers use different machines that resemble lawn mowers to "comb" berries off vines. These berries are sold fresh.

Cranberries were once called "crane berries," since the pink blossoms resemble a crane's head and bill. Native Americans ate the fruit mashed with cornmeal or deer meat. Now cranberries are a colorful part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Crazy for cranberries

• 91 percent of Thanksgiving dinners will include cranberry sauce. That's more than 3 million pounds.

• 4,400 cranberries are needed for one gallon of juice.

• Cranberries bounce! Small pockets of air inside give them a good spring. This is also why they float in water.

• Wisconsin is the top producer of cranberries in the US, followed by Massachusetts. New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington also grow substantial numbers of them.

• The hearty cranberry vine thrives in conditions that wouldn't support many other crops: acidic soil with few nutrients. Cranberry bushes can also withstand low temperatures.

Source: Ocean Spray, www.oceanspray.com

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