At Work in the Cranberry Bog

Museum shows cranberry bog harvest with handcrafted tools

| December 2000

  • A cranberry bog at Kingston, Mass.
    A cranberry bog at Kingston, Mass. The ditches are used to channel water for bog flooding, an important part of cranberry cultivation.
  • A 19th century winnowing machine used to separate cranberries from leaves and other material
    A 19th century winnowing machine used to separate cranberries from leaves and other material. The cranberries went in to the top of the machine. The crank was then turned to create a sideways air stream to blow out debris while the cranberries fell into a hopper below.
  • A combined winnowing and bouncing machine dating to the 1930s.
    A combined winnowing and bouncing machine dating to the 1930s. Made primarily of wood, it removed leaves and debris while sorting berries by the "bounce" method.
  • A selection of 19th century tools used in planting cranberry vines
    A selection of 19th century tools used in planting cranberry vines. Front row, from left: four diller bars of varying design. The two implements on the right are hoes used for weeding between the vines. At back, a four-tined diller designed to speed the planting process. Each tool was designed and crafted by its owner.
  • Ray Poole, a tour guide at the Cranberry World Visitors Center, with a 19th century sorting tray.
    Ray Poole, a tour guide at the Cranberry World Visitors Center, with a 19th century sorting tray. The tray was laid flat on sawhorses to receive berries from the winnowing machine as part of the sorting process.

  • A cranberry bog at Kingston, Mass.
  • A 19th century winnowing machine used to separate cranberries from leaves and other material
  • A combined winnowing and bouncing machine dating to the 1930s.
  • A selection of 19th century tools used in planting cranberry vines
  • Ray Poole, a tour guide at the Cranberry World Visitors Center, with a 19th century sorting tray.

When cranberries are cooking, have you ever wondered why you can hear the berries popping in the pan? Or why, if one falls to the floor, it bounces? 

Those unusual actions are due to the cranberry's unique design, which features air pockets in each berry. When the berry is fresh from the cranberry bog and healthy, the pockets are full of air, giving it a good bounce. When the berry deteriorates, the pockets deflate and the bounce is gone. When fresh berries are cooked, the air inside heats up, causing them to explode.

Cranberries have been a part of our culture since native Americans introduced the wild fruit to the early New England settlers in the 17th century. The Cape Cod Pequots and the New Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes called the cranberry "ibimi" (or bitter berry), but it was the Pilgrims who gave the berry its modern name. To them, the shape of the plant's bloom resembled the head of the sandhill crane, a heron-like bird common to the area, so they called the fruit a "crane berry," which later evolved into "cranberry."

Just a short walk from Plymouth Rock on Cape Cod Bay, where the Mayflower landed in 1620, is the Cranberry World Visitors Center. Sponsored by Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., the center includes a small museum celebrating a farming industry that has been a part of local life in southeastern Massachusetts for almost 400 years.



Ray Poole, a tour guide at the center, can answer any questions a visitor may have about the cranberry.

"When the Pilgrims landed, the cranberries were growing wild," he said. "The native Americans helped them out with food and shelter, and showed them the berries that grew in the bogs. They showed them how to make pemmican, which was dried cranberries and dried venison mixed with lard. They made it into hamburger-size patties, baked them in the sun, then put them in baskets made of reeds to store for the winter. They were a source of vitamins and protein."



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