Natural Foods Merchandiser

Produce Perspectives: Find your thrill on Cranberry Hill

by Mark Mulcahy

Yahoo! We’re heading to Boston for Expo East. I don’t know about you, but the thought of being in Beantown in October is pretty exciting to me. I can’t wait to see the “green” convention center as well as lead and attend some workshops. If you are still planning your agenda, consider participating in my “Selling Organic in a Slow Economy” workshop on Thursday, Oct. 16 from 10:30 a.m. until noon.

And since I got you thinking about your plans for Expo, how about celebrating National Cranberry Month with me? We’ll spend part of the day on Wednesday visiting cranberry bogs. According to the latest Agricultural Research Service Report from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, cranberries score among the highest of all the commonly eaten fruits on the antioxidant scale. The top five fruits are cranberries, blueberries, plums, blackberries and raspberries.

Dan Souza, director of sales and marketing for Decas Botanical Synergies, and I have put together an amazing tour so you can learn about this incredible fruit. We will check folks in at 10 a.m. Oct. 15 and will leave at 10:30 a.m. sharp from Level 1, Northeast Lobby Outside.

First, we will visit the Decas Cranberry Products factory, the home of Fruitaceuticals Supercharged SuperFruits. Because October is the heart of cranberry harvest season, we’ll start at the cranberry receiving station and, believe me, it will be buzzing with activity. We’ll check out what they do with the trucks of berries as they arrive from the bogs, and watch the fruit being cleaned. Dan promises that the process is quite interesting.

From there we will hop back on the bus and travel a short distance to witness cranberry harvesting at a Decas conventional cranberry farm.

If you’re like me, you’ve seen pictures or commercials of farmers standing up to their hips in bogs to harvest cranberries. But did you know there are two types of harvesting? Yep, it’s true. The type of harvesting depends on what you are going to do with the berry. According to Souza, dry harvesting is done without flooding the bogs using machines, that produce an effect somewhat like mowing the lawn. This fruit is used in fresh-fruit sales.

Wet harvesting is done by flooding the bogs and then harvesting with a quasi-riverboat-paddle contraption that beats the berries off the bushes. Healthy cranberries float because they have pockets of air inside the fruit. They are then corralled almost like an oil slick and sucked into a truck. These berries are used for sweetened and dried cranberries and for juice concentrate.

More than 85 percent of the cranberry crop is wet-harvested. I guess that means we eat more dried berries and drink more juice during the rest of the year than we make sauce with fresh berries around Thanksgiving.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Expo tour if we didn’t include an organic farm.So after our visit to the first Decas conventional cranberry farm, we will hop on the bus and head over to Cranberry Hill, which has six acres of cranberry bog that has been certified organic for the past 12 years. If you work in retail, you’ve probably seen the Cranberry Hill label and tasted their berries. Cranberry Hill also grows berries for Decas Botanical Synergies. Although more than 100 different varieties of cranberries exist, we’ll see the native East Coast berries called Early Blacks and Howes at Cranberry Hill. The berries are small, pretty and very tasty. Cranberry Hill farmers choose these because they think those varieties make the best cranberry sauce.

After our organic farm visit, we’ll be able to drive through the countryside of autumn foliage on our way back to Boston. We should have you back in plenty of time to make plans for the late afternoon.

If you are interested in signing up for the tour, go to I look forward to seeing you there.

Mark Mulcahy has 25 years of experience in the organic produce industry. He is the produce director for New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, Calif. Contact him at [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 38

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