It’s the beginning of cranberry harvest season, which means it’s busy in the Pine Barrens. Most of New Jersey’s estimated 3,000 acres of cranberry farming takes place in a state-protected area in South Jersey.
New Jersey is third in the nation in cranberry production, after Massachusetts and Wisconsin. The fruit, which is only one of three — blueberries and concord grapes are the others — that can trace their origins to North America, has been cultivated in the Garden State since the mid-19th century. A New Jersey grower, along with two growers from Massachusetts, joined up in 1930 to create Ocean Spray, a farm cooperative. New Jersey’s leading grower today is the Haines family from Chatsworth, which farms 700 acres; the Haines family farm has been in operation since the late 19th century.
Cranberries are often harvested through a “wet” process in which the bogs are flooded with water — the cranberries are loosened from their vines and they float to the surface. This process is responsible for the beautiful red photographs that are taken of the cranberry harvest. But not all the cranberries on your grocery aisle are harvested this way. There is also a dry process of harvesting, which typically produces the bagged fruit which will soon flood the markets.