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Cranberry crop to be among largest

Recently released estimates indicate that the 2011 cranberry harvest will slightly exceed the 2010 volume, placing it among the largest cranberry crop years.

“The estimated U.S. cranberry crop production for 2011 is 7,363,000 barrels,” Tobias Stapleton, marketing director for the Cranberry Marketing Committee in Wareham, MA, told The Produce News. “The estimate was issued by the CMC at the end of August.”

cranberrypicker
Harvesting cranberries at Habelman Bros. Co. (Photo courtesy of the Cranberry Network)

If projections hold true, the crop will be slightly higher than the 2010 crop of 7.35 million barrels, which was 6 percent higher than the 2009 crop.

If realized, the 2011 crop will be the second-largest crop on record behind the 2008 crop, which was recorded at 7.6 million barrels.

Wisconsin continues to lead the country’s cranberry production. The committee indicated that state’s estimate to be 4.384 million barrels for 2011. Massachusetts is second with 1.85 million barrels, followed by New Jersey with 538,000 barrels, Oregon with 415,000 and Washington with 141,000 barrels.

Cranberries are among the more unique fruits in the world. One of only three fruits native to North America — the others are said to be Concord grapes and blueberries — cranberries grow in the wild on long-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. While they are harvested primarily in the Northeast, cranberries also grow in other parts of North America, including Wisconsin, Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

The fruit was not farmed on a large scale until the 1800s, and growers initially picked the berries by hand. But eventually a more efficient technique was developed that revolutionized the process: wet harvesting. By flooding a bog with water, cranberries’ buoyancy allows them to float to the surface, where they are then collected.

U.S. cranberries enjoy a major export market, predominantly to Europe, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Australia. Mr. Stapleton said that 23 percent of the crop is now sold internationally.

Besides promoting the many health benefits of cranberries, the committee looks at ways to focus on groups that can influence cranberry demand. “We are targeting chefs by showing them the versatility of cranberries,” said Mr. Stapleton. “Last year, we began looking at high-profile culinary events in the U.S. To date, we have participated in the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, the Food Network’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and several other events.”

As part of its participation, the committee reaches out to participating chefs prior to the events to encourage them to use cranberries, and they arrange for producers to provide cranberries to the chefs at no charge.

Current culinary food movements and trends that are bringing people back to their kitchens to enjoy cooking in ways that reflect how meals were made generations ago are also a boon to fresh cranberry consumption.

“We are seeing a trend that is ticking away from the use of canned cranberries to people making their own sauces and other recipes,” said Mr. Stapleton. “Inter-generational recipes are resurfacing and being accepted strongly by home cooks and chefs alike today.”