Cranberry, the small, red, acid fruit of the taccinium macrocarpon and other shrubs of the same genus, distinguished by slender creeping stems, small evergreen ' leaves whitened beneath, and erect pedicles, terminated by a pale rose-colored nodding flower, with a four-parted corolla. The cranberry shrub grows best in lowlands, where the decay of organic matter furnishes the different organic acids. The related V. oxycoccus is found wild in many parts of North and South America, in England and Ireland, in the marshy grounds of central and northern Europe, and on the wastes of Siberia. The American cranberry is larger than the English, and of richer flavor. The three principal varieties recognized in the markets are the cherry, bugle, and bell cranberries. The best of the cherry variety are very dark-colored. The requisites for successful cranberry culture are: a soil of muck or peat that can be drained for 12 or 18 inches below the surface; a supply of water sufficient to allow the meadow to be flooded at will; and an abundance of pure sand. The attempts to cultivate the cranberry upon ordinary soil, in a large way, have not been profitable.
Localities suitable for cranberry meadows are to be found in most northern states, especially at Cape Cod, Mass., and in Ocean, Atlantic, and Burlington counties, N. J. These counties are estimated to supply more than one half of all the berries sold. The surface of the meadow is pared, the sods and all stumps and roots being removed, and then covered with sand to the depth of two to six inches, according as the muck is deep or shallow. Cultivators attach much importance to the quality of the sand used to cover the meadow; it should be as free as possible from clay or vegetable matter, and from the seeds of weeds. Sand serves a twofold purpose: it affords a genial medium in which the newly set plants can strike root, and it keeps down the growth of such plants as would otherwise spring from the muck. The sanding being completed, the vines are then planted. These should be chosen with great care, some of them being unfruitful; the best may be distinguished by the wiry texture of the wood and the greenish brown color of the leaves. The poorer plants are more vigorous, brighter, greener, and have a more bushy foliage than the best. The vines should be planted in the spring, or in the autumn if the "patch" can be well flooded in winter.
The transferring of the sods which bear the vines is not a good practice. A better method is to use cuttings from four to six inches long, the middle of which is covered in the soil, and the ends left projecting; or two or three cuttings may be planted together with a dibble. Vines have been cut into pieces two or three inches long by a common hay cutter, sown broadcast, and harrowed in. Propagation from seed is not to be depended on, the seed not germinating readily except in favorable localities; the seedlings are easily injured; there is much loss of time; and even in the third year little fruit is borne. The vines should be planted in rows two feet apart. The weeds should be kept down for two seasons, after which the vines will begin to take full possession of the soil. Cranberry vines are sometimes burned (but not when the ground is very dry) to destroy the worm. Flooding is also a remedy for this. The fruit ripens in the vicinity of New York about the middle of October. The persons who pick the berries are usually paid by the bushel. The vines should be picked clean. When gathered before they are ripe (as is sometimes done to save them from frost), or if the dew be on them, they do not keep well.
The cranberry rake may sometimes be used to advantage; it is made of bent sheet iron, whose lower edge is a row of teeth shaped like the letter V; when drawn over the ground the plants escape, but the fruit is gathered. The berries may be rolled over an inclined plane to separate the good from the bad. Leaves, straws, and prematurely ripe or diseased fruit should be removed. Cranberries for Europe are packed in water in small kegs, and sometimes in sealed bottles filled with water. By the American aborigines poultices were prepared from cranberries to extract the venom from wounds made by poisoned arrows, and the same are used as a popular remedy for erysipelas.