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Cranberries: A Little Fruit With Growing Appeal

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Cranberries are a little red fruit native to North America. They are raised on more than sixteen thousand hectares across the northern United States and Canada. And they supply a growing market.

Over two hundred eighty million kilograms of cranberries are grown in the United States each year. Wisconsin is the biggest producer, followed by Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey and Washington State.

The hard berries are boiled with sugar to make cranberry sauce, a traditional part of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. They are also eaten dried, made into spreads, baked into treats, mixed with other flavors and pressed into juice. In fact, that juice represents more than sixty percent of purchases of cranberry products at markets.

Cranberries are one of only a few fruit native to the United States and Canada. The Cranberry Institute says a Revolutionary War veteran named Henry Hall started to grow them for sale in Massachusetts in eighteen sixteen.

Cranberries are harvested in September and October. They can be picked by a machine that strikes the plant to loosen the berries. These are usually sold fresh.

But cranberries are more commonly picked from their low-growing vines in a way that saves a lot of labor. This method is possible because cranberries naturally grow in wetlands.

Many farmers grow the vines in areas that are lower than the surrounding land. At harvest time, the beds are flooded. A machine strikes the vines. The berries break free and float on the water. Then they are moved to one end of the flooded beds and gathered by machine. These berries are usually processed.

Cranberries have a long history. The Cranberry Institute notes that Native Americans used them in ceremonies and as food and medicine. Today marketers point to research findings that suggest that cranberries can help prevent some kinds of infections.

But cranberry growing has raised some environmental concerns. The Environmental Protection Agency says wetlands are being destroyed in some cases to expand production. Other concerns involve the use of farming chemicals that could enter water systems.

Yet even critics agree that cranberries are better than some other kinds of development. Farmers usually protect their cranberry beds with surrounding forestland. And that means a place for wildlife to live.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at I'm Steve Ember.