This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
There are now many varieties of cranberries in cultivation, all of them having been selected from wild vines or vines that appeared naturally in cultivated bogs. These varieties vary in shape, color, size, productiveness, time of ripening and adaptation to different soils. Some of the forms are shown in Figs. 1091-1093. The most generally cultivated are the Early Blacks and the Howes, both of which originated in the Cape Cod district and which together make about 50 per cent of the berries marketed from all three of the cranberry states.
The Early Blacks are ready to harvest about the first of September both in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and the last of the Howes are seldom picked before the middle of October. As the pickers advance over a cranberry bog, they pick clean as they go and do not go back for successive relays of ripening berries as with most other small fruits.
In Massachusetts most of the picking is done by a scoop, by which the berries are raked from the vines. When the vines are short, the uprights not tangled, and the picker is experienced, berries can be harvested in this way very rapidly and with very little damage to either fruit or vines. The bogs are kept in good condition for "scooping" by pruning every three or four years with a rake the teeth of which are knives placed about 6 inches apart. The scoop (Fig. 1094) is also used to a considerable extent in New Jersey and Wisconsin but in these states a great many berries are still picked by hand.
Some of the berries, especially in Massachusetts, are cleaned and packed on the bog as they are picked, and sent directly to market, but this immediate packing tends to poor keeping. Most cranberries, after picking, are put in boxes which are packed in well - ventilated storehouses. Here they are kept from a few days to several months and the cleaning and packing for market is done immediately before they are shipped.
The machine which has been the standard for cleaning cranberries for many years is provided with a fan to blow away all grass, pieces of vine, dried-up berries or anything of like nature that may have gotten in the berries while being picked. The berries are then allowed to roll down a series of steps; those that are sound are elastic and will bounce like little rubber balls. There are bands of cloth stretched above the steps in such a way that when a berry bounces in the right direction it is received on the cloth and slides down into the box placed for the good berries without more bouncing. The rotten berries having lost their elasticity are not able to bounce over the cloth partition that separates the good from the bad. With berries that are nearly spherical and not too juicy this machine works very well, provided there are no frozen berries to be taken out.
Fig. 1091. The oblong or bugle-form type of cranberry. (X 1/2)
Berries damaged by frost are even more elastic than sound ones and will all go into the box for good fruit. Neither will the bounce machines work well with long or oval berries; when these strike on their pointed ends they fail to ounce and there is always a considerable percentage of sound fruit found in the refuse box. As there may be anywhere from ten to thirty or more steps, it is easily understood that berries going over these machines are not in the best possible condition for long keeping after they are put on the market. Some varieties of berries which are very juicy and tender can not be put through these machines at all as the steps get so sticky with the juice that the berries will not bounce.
In 1903, a machine was patented by Joseph J. White, which avoids the defects of the bounce machines. This has since been put on the market and its use is spreading among the more careful packers of Massachusetts and New Jersey, but the more complicated machinery and greater cost have prevented its adoption by other growers. This machine is provided with a hopper into which the cranberries are emptied through a screen which removes the coarser grass and vines; from the hopper the berries are fed, single file, to screw conveyors on which they are held by troughlike guards. These guards do not quite touch the screw, leaving a crack through which the remaining bits of grass, vines and dried berries are dropped into a box placed below to receive them.
The screw conveyor passes the berries over a series of selecting plates made of some resilient material, the best found so far being the selected spruce wood prepared for piano sounding-boards. These plates are tapped by small hammers placed beneath, the strength of the blow being regulated by a thumb-screw. The sound berries respond to this gentle tapping by jumping off the screw conveyor and falling on an endless belt a few inches below, which delivers all the sound fruit at one end of the machine. The rotten berries do not respond to the tapping of the selecting plates and are carried to the ends of the screw conveyors where they drop in the same box under the machine that receives the fine grass and the like. Frozen berries are removed by this machine nearly as well as rotten ones and the shape of the berries is of no importance, while the berries only drop twice, a few inches each time, and are in much better condition for long keeping than those that go over the bounce machines. After the berries have been cleaned by machine it is customary to place them on tables where women remove any defective berries that may have been missed by the machines.
Fig. 1092. The obovoid or bell-shaped form of cranberry. (X 1/2)
Fig. 1093. The globular or cherry-shaped cranberry. (X 1/2)
Most cranberries are marketed in barrels holding about 100 quarts; a few are marketed in crates three of which fill a barrel. Some dealers prefer to buy cranberries "in the chaff," that is, just as they come from the bogs without having been run through any machine. Berries sold in this way are always packed in crates and are cleaned by the dealer, a few crates at a time, as his trade calls for them; they keep better than those that have been cleaned before being shipped.
Evaporated cranberries have been on the market for a number, of years and are excellent, there being less difference between the sauce made from them and from fresh fruit than is the case with most kinds of fruit.
From the cranberry centers, the fruit is shipped in carload lots to the large cities of the United States, and from these distributed to the surrounding towns. There is also a small but steadily growing export trade.
A bog in good bearing should yield fifty barrels to the acre, but as many as 200 barrels have been secured.
In 1895 cooperative selling of cranberries was inaugurated by some of the New Jersey growers, who organized the Growers' Cranberry Co., with Joseph J. White as president and Theodore Budd as vice-president. This company was joined by a number of large New England growers and, though handling only 25 per cent of the crop, prospered greatly. Later, A. U. Chaney organized another cooperative selling company. These two companies consolidated in 1910, forming the American Cranberry Exchange, with George W. Briggs, of Massachusetts, as president. The Exchange controls about 50 per cent of the crop of the country and has been remarkably successful in securing good prices for its members while keeping the retail price as low as during the years of fiercest competition.