October 9, 2017

Harvesting cranberries

Cranberries are typically growing in northern states, such as Massachusetts, New Jerseys, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, because they need cooler growing environments.

The fruit were mostly handpicked until the 1850s, when pickers started using wooden scoops to comb through the vines and lift off the berries. Mechanical did not begin until the 1950s.

Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red color. This is usually in September through the first part of November.
To harvest cranberries, the beds are flooded with six to eighteen inches of water above the vines. The water reels, nicknamed ‘egg beaters’ stir up the water with sufficient force to dislodge the ripe berries from their vines.

For the past 50 years, water reel type harvesters have been used. The berries, which have four interior compartments that fill with air, then float to the surface.

Harvested cranberries float in the water, creating the picture-perfect cranberry bog and can be corralled into a corner of the bed and conveyed or pumped from the bed.

From the farm, cranberries are taken to receiving stations. The berries are cleaned, sorted and packed prior shipped to the processors.
Water from the first flooded field is drained into the next, and the process is repeated. Most wet-harvested cranberries are frozen and used primarily for processed juices, sauces and relishes.

Although most cranberries are wet-picked as described above, 5–10% of the US crop is still dry-picked. This entails higher labor costs and lower yield, but dry-picked berries are less bruised and can be sold as fresh fruit instead of having to be immediately frozen or processed.

In dry harvesting, growers use a mechanical picker that looks like a giant lawn mower. The picker combs the berries off the vine with moving teeth; a conveyor belt carries them to a box at the back of the machine, then they are pour in large containers and air-lifted by helicopter to waiting trucks.
Harvesting cranberries
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