Fall in Clatsop County means many different things to different people. Some people anticipate the coming of razor clam digs or hunting for that prize elk, but for many local farmers, it means it’s time for Cranberry harvest. Oregon’s cranberry industry goes back to the late 1800s and produces about half a million barrels per year. Americans devour about 400 million pounds of cranberries annually, with approximately 20% of those are consumed during the week of Thanksgiving. Did you know that a good portion of those tangy but sweet cranberries are grown right here in beloved Clatsop County?
There are two methods of cranberry harvest, wet and dry. In Oregon, most cranberry growers use the wet harvesting method. The night before harvest the cranberries bog is flooded with about 18 inches of water. The next day, they use water reels to churn the water and shake loose the fresh cranberries from the bush. Those cranberries then float up to the surface where they are gathered, cleaned, packaged, and sent off to market. Oregon growers usually begin harvesting in early October and continue until early December.
The average United States resident enjoys about 2.5 pounds of cranberries annually. The majority of consumption is from juice or juice blends. The tangy deliciousness of dried cranberries is also extremely popular, followed by the traditional cranberry sauce typically served at the Thanksgiving meal.
Cranberries are a powerful anti-oxidant. Experts often call them a super food due to being linked to the prevention of some types of cancer. They also aid in digestion and lower the risk of urinary tract infections. Cranberries help boost immune function and often decreased blood pressure. Yet, half a cup of cranberries is only about 25 calories! Cranberries are obviously vegan, contain no saturated fats, are gluten-free and non-GMO. So, devour all the cranberries you want. Add them to your apple pie, hot oatmeal, or sprinkle them over ice cream.
Oregon cranberries are often higher in natural sugar content and are usually sweet enough to eat fresh. Because they are grown so close to the ocean, the temperature is typically a few degrees cooler than further inland. The cooler temperature produces a deeper-red cranberry that is both sweet and tasty than those grown further in the interior.
The quality indicators of cranberries consist of the sugar content, low acidity, size, and color. Oregon cranberries are a great source of pride and usually rank highest in all categories. Because of that, they are often shipped east where they are mixed with other cranberries to improve the overall color of the juice.
Ocean Spray, based out of Massachusetts, is North America’s leading producer of cranberry products, posting fiscal revenues of around $2 billion. About 70 percent of all cranberries grown in the United States are distributed through Ocean Spray. While a few local farmers have held out and are still independently growing and selling their berries, about 95% of growers in the Pacific Northwest are part of the Ocean Spray cooperative. People have mixed feeling about the giant company controlling the price that it pays its members every year.
Cranberries have been grown commercially in Oregon for over 100 years. The Washington State Cranberry Research Station is highly influential in assisting local cranberry growers with disease prevention and suggests ways to reduce the use of pesticides on crops. Still, there are only a handful of organic cranberry farms in all of America.
There are some wonderful annual cranberry celebrations in the Pacific Northwest that celebrate the joy of cranberries. If you’re looking for fun family entertainment, where the kid’s smile and the old folks reminisce over cranberry streusel and vanilla ice cream, you’re in the right place. The Oregon Cranberry Festival is a popular event and takes place in early September every year in Bandon, Oregon.
The Cranberry Harvest Festival in Grayland, Washington always draws large crowds as well. Celebrate all things cranberry with public tours of cranberry bogs, shop in the Cranberry Market Place, sample the cranberry goodies at Bite of the Beach, or at the Cranberry Cook-off. Work off your over indulgence at the Bog Jog, a 10k, 5k run and 3k walk for all ages and abilities. Don’t forget to watch the illuminated night time parade on Saturday night. It is fun for kids both young and old.
Cranberries are a big part of life in Oregon. Show your support for local cranberry growers this year and try out a new recipe using cranberries, enjoy one of the festivals, or go on a cranberry tour. Make dried or frozen cranberries a regular part of your family’s diet. Your support can make a big difference in the local economy and help keep the joy of cranberry season stay alive in Clatsop County.