Native Americans first taught the early settlers how to cultivate and use cranberries not only for recipes, but for medicinal reasons and as a red dye. The Pilgrims referred to the fruit as the “crane berry” because of the flower’s resemblance to a crane.
Cranberries grow naturally in marshland areas in the northern United States and some parts of Canada. It’s a common misconception that cranberries are grown in water. These berries can only grow in special areas with the right conditions; they require the right combination of sand, acidic peat soil, gravel and clay often found in glacial deposits. Water is used for a “wet” harvest because each berry has an air pocket which causes the berries to float and can be easily collected.
Today, Cranberries can also harvested using a “dry” method with mechanical pickers that comb the berries off the vines. For hundreds of years people harvested the cranberries by hand, until Luther Hall, Zebina Hall & William Growell patented the first cranberry picker in 1876, which allowed for production to increase exponentially.
The cranberry picker is a hand held rake-like tool, with a large comb at one end and a short handle at the other. Improvements to the tools were added in the early 1900’s with the rocker bottom model. This had a large comb/rake at one end and a new “collection box” at the other with a handle. This enabled workers to rake the cranberries up, rock the basket back and forth to loosen the berries, and then the scooped collection box would catch the berries as they fell. This was the popular tool to use until mechanical pickers were invented. The first tractor like picker came out in 1925.
Cranberries, blueberries, and concord grapes, are the three cultivated fruits that are native to North America. Cranberries do not need to be replanted as undamaged vines will grow indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are over 150 years old!
The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village, does not have cranberries for sale; however, we do have antique cranberry pickers. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles from over 90 vendors.