All About Cranberries: An American Native

Cranberry Trivia and Growing Tips

October 22, 2019
Winter Berries

Here are five fun facts about cranberries, as well as tips for growing this American native and favorite seasonal ingredient yourself.

5 Facts About Cranberries

  1. By the beginning of November, nearly all of the cranberry crop should have been harvested. Millions and millions of the hard, little, tart, ruby berries grown in the bogs of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and the Maritime provinces of Canada will have been bagged fresh or earmarked for juice or canned sauce. 
     
  2. The cranberry is a genuine Native American, Vaccinium macrocarpon, a member of the heath family and a relative of the blueberry and huckleberry.
     
  3. The Pequot Native Americans of Cape Cod called the berry ibimi, meaning “bitter berry,” and combined crushed cranberries with dried venison and fat to make pemmican.
     
  4. The Pilgrims and those who followed appreciated the wild berries but did not start to cultivate them until 1816, when a bog was planted and tended in Dennis on Cape Cod. By then, American and Canadian sailors on long voyages knew they could eat cranberries to protect themselves from scurvy—making them a cranberry counterpart to British “limeys.”
     
  5. Cranberry is a native superfood and good for you! They’re packed with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant compounds. See more about cranberry’s natural health benefits.

OK, this isn’t a fun fact, but cranberries taste great! They add a unique burst of tart flavor to any dish—as well as glorious color. Here’s a delicious Cranberry Dream Pie that you can make ahead and stick in the freezer.

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See all of our tasty cranberry recipes—from cranberry sauce to chutney to cake to punch!

Try Growing Cranberries Yourself—No Bog Necessary!

Cranberries are grown in bogs because these are constructed to protect the fruit: A bog can be quickly flooded when freezing weather is predicted, thus sparing the submerged blossoms and berries from spring and fall frosts. 

But did you know that you don’t need a bog to grow cranberries? In fact, they are a great addition to the home garden—and, come harvesttime, they are a surprise condiment for your Thanksgiving dinner. A 10x5-foot plot will yield up to 10 pounds of delicious berries just in time for holiday sauce and desserts.

Here’s all you need to know to grow cranberries at home:

  • For best results, cranberries should be grown in full sun in a 50-50 mix of garden soil and peat moss. If your soil is sandy, remove the top 8 inches and line the bottom of the bed with a sheet of 6-mil plastic.
  • Poke plenty of drainage holes in the plastic and then fill the bed with the soil mix. Scratch in ½ pound of 10-20-10 fertilizer and you are ready to plant. 
  • The cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, a North American native, is a member of the heath family and a relative of the blueberry and huckleberry. It is a low-growing evergreen, hardy to Zone 2, that sends out runners much like strawberries do. Each runner may grow up to 3 feet long and send up numerous uprights that bear thumbnail-size fruit. 
  • Cranberries are best planted in late April through the end of May. Six 3-year-old plants spaced evenly throughout the bed will grow together to form a thick mat and should produce during the first season.
  • A light mulch of sawdust or sand will help to root the runners. Water the new planting every day for 2 weeks and then as you would the rest of your garden. Flower buds open from late May to June and produce ripe fruit in late September to early October.

Fun to grow and easy to care for, cranberries are one crop that shouldn’t bog down any gardener. 

Growing information courtesy of George Lohmiller.

Reader Comments

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Ground cover

I have seen cranberries sold as a ground cover on some gardening supply websites, no bog required: The American Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is native to the United States. I really want to try to grow them. Garden catalogs are so tempting, need more money and space to grow!

Please add information about

Please add information about cranberry bushes/trees! Thanks.

In my community garden,

In my community garden, gardeners from Africa plant Huckleberry and eat the greens only. Most article mention the berries but not the greens. There are precautions listed about this plant. Can you tell me more about the plant and where I may obtain seeds that I can eat the greens without worrying about gastrointestial problems

The Lingonberry!I would love

The Lingonberry!I would love to see an article on vaccinium vitis-idaea. It will grow well in my clime, apparently! My swedish heritage bades me to grow this relative of the cranberry! Has anyone else tried this plant?