CRANBERRY HARVESTING METHODS
* Cranberries for juice, sauce, and other processed foods are `wet harvested,' a method adopted by Massachusetts growers in the mid-1960s from Wisconsin farmers.
Before then, farm workers used to move across the bogs on their hands and knees, removing the berries from the vines by combing them with slotted wooden scoops.
The first step in wet harvesting is to partially flood the bogs. Then the ripened fruit is beaten off the plant with a special machine. The bogs are flooded further, and the buoyant berries are corralled by wader-clad workers using wooden booms. (See photo.) After sifting out the grass and leaves, workers load the fruit into a trailer truck and transport it to a receiving station, where it is prepared for delivery to processing plants.
To harvest the bagged cranberries destined for cooking or for stringing at Christmastime, growers use the `dry harvesting' method, which treats the fruit more delicately. Workers walk behind 400-pound motorized picking machines with teeth and rollers that trim the vines and strip off the berries. Old-fashioned wooden scoops may still be used to gather berries growing along ditches that are unreachable by the picking machines.
The berries are poured into crates that are lifted by helicopter (heavy trucks would damage the bogs) to trucks that take the berries to receiving stations, where they are sorted, cleaned, and packaged for delivery to grocery stores.
Both harvesting methods will be demonstrated Oct. 16-18 at the cranberry festival on Nantucket Island, Mass., the site of the world's largest cranberry bog. For information on the festival, contact the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce: (508) 228-1700.