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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Cranberries on bush

Large Cranberry


Season: Late September to Early October


Urban, Rural or Both: Rural


Cranberry. Most people will get Cranberries from the store, but they can be picked wild, and there are a few types of them. The Common or Northern Cranberry is not grown commercially or rarely, so if you want that one, you will have to gather it yourself. You don't always have to wade around in water to get them by the way, but you will have to go where it is wet and boggy. Please be careful - the peat bogs where these often grow can be treacherous to walk on, as you can sink on the soft, boggy peat or mucky soils. I know of an area in Central Ontario where they are to be found, it looks like a damp area with plants, but there are numerous quicksand holes in the bedrock that are not obvious at first glance.

Most people associate Cranberries with Thanksgiving meals, and that is still the most common usage - cooked with a sweetener, and served hot, warm or room temperature as either a jelly or jam like side dish. That said, they are a food with more uses. It is not uncommon to find dried Cranberries with mixed nuts now, with or instead of raisins. Also Cranberry drinks are not hard to find. What is hard to find is Cranberry drinks that are not full of sugar or worse yet, some fructose sweetener. I have found Cranberry juice concentrate that has no sweeteners, but the cost is very high in my opinion. Here is the way I most commonly use them, that uses no sugar at all: I put about a cup of frozen or fresh Cranberries in a plastic bowl and cover with about 2 cups of water. I blend them with a hand blender (you could use a regular blender) and then strain them with a sieve. I then add another 2 cups of water and repeat the blending and sieving. At that point I end up with 4 cups of weak Cranberry juice that I put in glass jars in the fridge and have a small glass when I want a drink. It is weak, but very good. The pulp that is left over, I add 1 cup of water, put on the stove on low, and let simmer for about an hour, and just have a little of it with mashed potatoes or squash. It doesn't need sweetener that way, and you get a lot of use for the one cup of Cranberries. Refrigerate what you don't use and use cold or reheat for the next meal. Will last a few days in the fridge.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

You can, but you will need the right habitat. The Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is the one most often grown. The smaller Cranberry is drier in taste that the Large Cranberry.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Cranberry page.


Types of Cranberries:


Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris). Also known as: Small Cranberry, Swamp Cranberry, Bog Cranberry.


Description:


Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Common Cranberry drawing

Common Cranberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 704)


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Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris) in flower up close. (By: Qwert1234)


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Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris) ready to harvest. (By: B.Lezius CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris) up close. (By: Christian Fischer CC BY-SA 3.0)


Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus). Known also as American Cranberry and Bearberry.


Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Large Cranberry

Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus)


Large Cranberry drawing

Large Cranberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 705)


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Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus) in flower. (By: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus) ready for harvest. (By: Sten Porse Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)


Vaccinium_macrocarpon-Flora_Batava

Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus) illustration. (By: Flora Batava of Afbeelding en Beschrijving van Nederlandsche Gewassen, (1872) by Jan Kops)


Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum or Oxycoccus erythrocarpus). Known also as the Dingleberry and Mountain Cranberry.

This plant does not grow where I live, so I have no experience with it, but I've included it as it sounds very interesting. First, it does not grow in wet areas, but prefers drier areas - that sounds fantastic if you ever gathered the other Cranberries in October in cold, wet areas. Second, it is taller and doesn't require you get down on your hands and knees, or work bent over picking from near the ground until your back aches.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

I have no idea - unless you live high up in the hills in the Southeastern USA where there is no limestone and the soil is acidic, then I'm sure there would be no problem. Some day, I'd really like to try growing this in the lower elevations in Southern Ontario, where my guess is, the climate would be similar to the higher elevations in the Southeastern USA - the climate zone is a good match at least.

For general Cranberry growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Cranberry page.


Description:


Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum or Oxycoccus erythrocarpus) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Southern Mountain Cranberry drawing

Southern Mountain Cranberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 705)


Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum). Although called the Highbush Cranberry, this bush is not in the Vaccinium genus like the true Cranberries. It is a type of Viburnum. Go to the Viburnum page for the Highbush Cranberry.





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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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