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November 22, 2017

As you gather around the Thanksgiving table with friends and family, give a thought to the cranberry — whether served as sauce, relish, in a mold, or otherwise — and its economic and historic association with the Garden State. According to figures from statista.com, New Jersey harvested 653,000 barrels of cranberries in 2016, the most recent data available. That makes New Jersey the third-largest producer of cranberries in the United States. The 2016 harvest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture was worth $28 million.

There’s even a legislative angle to the cranberry: AJR-71 was introduced in 2016 to make October Cranberry Harvest Month. The bill died in committee, but it is a gold mine — or should that be a bog full — of fun facts about this Thanksgiving favorite:

  • There are more than 3,600 acres operational cranberry bogs spread throughout the Pinelands.

  • Cranberries have been cultivated in New Jersey for commercial purposes since Benjamin Thomas of Burlington County first attempted to domesticate them in 1835.

  • In the 19th century, Elizabeth Lee, one of the first cranberry growers in southern New Jersey, created and began selling “Bog Sweet Cranberry Sauce.”

  • “Bounce sorters,” the process to identify and separate good cranberries from bad were invented in New Jersey, and is currently used by all cranberry farmers throughout the country.

One more thing: A healthy, happy, and safe Thanksgiving from all of us at NJ Spotlight.

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