“HOW THEY HARVEST CRANBERRIES IS REALLY SOMETHING ELSE, AS YOU CAN SEE IN THESE IMAGES FROM OUR REGIONAL PRODUCERS IN BOIS-FRANCS, IN THE CENTRE OF QUEBEC. “
GROWING CRANBERRIES, A TRUE QUEBEC GEM.
At the end of spring, the buds transform into beautiful little white flowers. The pollination period then begins.
The fruit changes from white to red, until it reaches a beautiful bright red. As the cranberries ripen, the sugar and anthocyanin content increases.
The cranberry harvesting period usually goes from the end of September to the end of October. The cooler evenings and sunny days help the fruit ripen and gain its colour.
A PLANT THAT BEARS FRUIT.
Cranberries are edible berries that grow on shrubs from the Ericaceae family. They grow in the wild in eastern North America in acidic bogs. The scientific name for the plant is Vaccinium Macrocarpon. In French, there are many different names for the little red acidic berries that the plant produces. In Quebec, we call them “canneberges” or “atocas” (or “atacas”). The Madelinots, from the Magdalen Islands, called them “pommes de pré.” In certain parts of Europe, they call them “pois de fagne” or “airelles.” In English, we just call them cranberries.
As we can see with the Iroquois name “atoca,” cranberries were well known to the Native Americans. In fact, they were picking these berries long before the first European settlers arrived. They used them for a variety of different things. In the fall, they extracted a juice high in vitamin C that, on top of quenching their thirst, was used as ink and dye for clothing. They would then mix the pulp from the dried fruit with animal fat and dried, powdered deer meat (or other meat from the Cervidae family). This highly nutritious mixture, called pemmican, had a shelf life of about ten years. It was used particularly for arctic expeditions and as a food source during periods of scarcity. The Native Americans created a plethora of recipes that are still popular today. They processed the fresh fruit into sauces and jellies. Any berries that were not harvested in the fall would ferment and become very popular alcoholic fruit in the spring. In addition to being used as a preservative, ink and dye, cranberries were also used by Native Americans as a remedy, particularly in the form of a poultice, which was very effective at treating wounds, or as a tea, to relieve certain types of pain.
Cranberries started to be grown in Massachusetts in 1816. In the following years, production expanded into Wisconsin, and then New Jersey. It wasn't until the 1930s when cranberries started to be grown in Quebec. Nowadays, they are mainly grown in the northern United States and in Canada (Quebec, Maritimes, Ontario and BC). The United States produce about 85% of the world's supply, while Canada only produces 12%. Cranberries are also grown in certain European countries, such as Belarus and the Ukraine. Quebec currently holds the first place for cranberry production in Canada.
The cranberry industry in Quebec has grown substantially. We now have more than 72 cranberry producers in the province, while there were only three in 1992. Quebec also has the third largest surface area for production in the world, after Wisconsin and Massachusetts. We are also the first producer of organic cranberries in the world.
As more and more cranberries are produced, processing companies are expanding their product lines. While 80% of production is still processed into juice, there are several other products derived from cranberries that are available on the market. In Quebec, the processed fruit is generally sold in the form of fresh fruit, whole frozen fruit, juice concentrates or dehydrated fruit.
NUTRA-FRUIT stands out by offering vinaigrettes, confits, jellies, spreads, coulis, powdered cranberries, chocolate-covered cranberries and cranberry seed oil. We are far past the time when cranberries were only eaten as a sauce to accompany a traditional holiday turkey dinner.