Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hand picked our first Jersey Cranberries! #gardenchat @PinesAdventures #GardenCuizine @JerseyFreshNJDA @USCranberries

Vaccinium macrocarpon
Jersey Cranberries!
High in Vitamin C and dietary Fiber
New Jersey ranks in the top 5 in the nation of Cranberry producers. Wisconsin and home of Ocean Spray in Massachusetts are also top producers. October always features tours for Cranberry Farms during harvest season. We finally got a chance to attend one yesterday! We drove to New Jersey's Pinelands where cranberries (and blueberries) grow and thrive.
Dry Harvesting at Quoexin Cranberry Co. in NJ 10/28/17
The sandy soil, pH and water in New Jersey's Pinelands is perfect for growing cranberries. Here is my recap of our fantastic tour hosted by Pinelands Adventures to one of the oldest independent cranberry growers in NJ: Quoexin Cranberry Company located in Medford, NJ - owned by Tom and Christine Gerber. 

As supporting members of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance we received a discount on the cost to attend, which was an added bonus.  

Quoexin Cranberry Farm features 50 beautiful acres of pinelands and cranberry bogs. "The cranberries color up late September," according to our tour guide Rob Ferber, Director of Pineland Adventures
Both cranberries and blueberries have a long history of cultivation in the Jersey Pines. Quoexin farm operated their first bogs as far back as 1835-1840.

I always thought cranberries grew in water. This trip taught me that cranberries actually grow on short vines in soil. Flooded bogs with red berries floating on the top are examples of wet harvesting. The wet harvesting method is used for the bulk of Jersey cranberry harvesting. The bogs are flooded with water and cranberries float to the top to be scooped.

Farmers who sell cranberries as fresh fruit use a dry vs. wet method of cranberry harvesting. Bogs are not flooded with water. Instead, they are raked out of the cranberry vines with special equipment that look like lawn mowers.
Quoexin Farm uses self-propelled Western Dry Picker equipment that has a burlap bag in the back to catches the cranberries as they get pulled off the weedy vines. 
Quoexin Farm owner Tom Gerber looking over a fresh Cranberry Harvest
As the bags are collected they are dumped into large holding bins before going to the packing house for sorting.
We were able to get up close to the cranberry bog edge. Once up close, we could see the red berries all over the low growing vines. This was the first time I ever picked cranberries! The raw cranberry's tasted good and not as tart as I expected.
Cultivars of cranberries include:
  • Howe (discovered 1843 in East Dennis, MA)
  • Champion
  • Early Blacks (discovered 1852 in Harwich, MA)
  • Jerseys
  • Wisconsin Gray Leski #1
  • Stephens - (discovered 1940 in Whitesbog, NJ)
  • Ben Lear
The Jersey Pinelands sits atop the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, a water source with 17 trillion vital gallons of water.
After the tour, for dinner we used some of the fresh cranberries in a dish called Ruby Chicken. We will make it again! It combines cranberries with flavors of orange, cinnamon and ginger.

This trip reminded us not to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy fresh cranberries. We plan to keep enjoying them in recipes and will look for Top Crop brand, which is the label to support this local NJ farmer.

We really enjoyed visiting Quoexin Cranberry Farms beautiful property. Thanks to Tom Gerber and family and Rob and to all involved. We look forward to more outdoor adventures and learning more about our states precious resources, environment, history and where our foods come from.

I planted a few sprigs of fresh cranberry vines in one of our raised beds. It isn't very sandy and is certainly not a bog. But, we'll see... today is raining and maybe some will take root and we can have the thrill of picking a handful of our own cranberries in the New Year!

Nutrition Data Cranberries
Excellent Source: Vitamin C, dietary Fiber
1 cup chopped (110 grams) = 51 calories, 15 mg (24% DV) Vitamin C; dietary Fiber 5.1g (20% DV); Vitamin E 1.3mg (7% DV) and other nutrients. 
Cranberries also contain proanthocyanidins that can enhance gut microbiota. Cranberries have bioactive catabolites that have been found to contribute to mechanisms affecting bacterial adhesion, coaggregation, and biofilm formation that may underlie potential clinical benefits on gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections, as well as on systemic anti-inflammatory actions mediated via the gut microbiome.* 
Related Links

7 Things You Didn't Know About Cranberries 
Health Benefits of Cranberries
The Cranberry Story 
Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

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