The Cranberry really has a long history in North America and had an important place in everyday Indian life.
The Cranberry was utilized by the Indians to brighten up food, to treat wounds from poisoned arrows and as a dye for carpets and blankets. Pilgrim women learned about the Cranberry in the friendly Indians and they soon began to create their own ways of fixing cranberries for their dinner tables. They made cranberry sauces, bubbling tarts and nogs. (beverages ) Today at our Thanksgiving Dinner Tables Cranberries are served in different kinds – Whole Berry Sauce, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Orange Relish and sometimes as part of a salad.
Cranberries are also utilized in baked goods – they create an excellent fruit for Quick Breads and a fantastic Sauce for Waffles and Pancakes.
Cranberries were called different names by Indians of different areas. Some of the names they were called are listed below:
Sassamanesh – Eastern (New England States) Indians
Atoqua – Algonquians in Wisconsin
Pakimintzen – New Jersey (emblem of Peace)
The modern day name”Cranberry” was a contraction of crane berry, an early name given to the berries because their pale pink blossoms resembled the head of a crane and Sandhill Cranes were seen in the lowlands eating the berries.
Cultivation of Cranberries started in Massachusetts almost 200 years after the landing of the Pilgrims. In 1816 Henry Hall of Dennis, Cape Cod, noticed that cranberries seemed to grow big and juicier where sand in the dunes blew over the vines. Cultivation today came from this simple observation made nearly 200 years back.
Cranberries grow on peat soil that’s been covered with a 3 inch layer of sand. Cuttings or branches from existing cranberry vines are planted deep enough to take root in the peat soil beneath the sand. The vines, planted about six inches apart, gradually spread over the floor forming a thick green carpet. The vines are weeded in the spring, pruned in the fall, fertilized and re-sanded every three or four years. Birds are required to control the insects and bees pollinate the blossoms.
A good Cranberry is going to have a bounce to it. At the Ocean Spray plant, if a berry doesn’t bounced it will be rejected. Today, these sour berries are used in numerous dishes along with Cranberry Sauce.