Herald & Journal, December 22, 1997

And there's cranberries, too

By MYRON HEUER

When you savor those cranberries during your holiday feast you might assume that they come from Massachusetts. Not necessarily so. Chances are they came from Wisconsin.

Do you know that Wisconsin grows 42 percent of the nation's cranberry crop? This state is expected to have a record harvest of 2.1 million barrels. For the third year in a row, Wisconsin is the top cranberry producing state.

Three counties abound in the acid soils and wetlands required for successful bogs. But cranberries won't be threatening Wisconsin's dominant dairy industry. Last year, when cranberry growers sold their berries for $101 million, milk sales alone added up to $3.3 billion, more than half of the $6.1 billion sale price of all agricultural products.

Cranberries are grown in marshes and were once dismissed as useless. On a clear autumn day with flooded bogs reflecting the flaming glory of nearby woods, few harvests are more beautiful.

Visitors can tour the Ocean Spray plant at Tomah, Wisc., during the frantic seven weeks of harvest. It's too late for this year, but you might think about a trip next year. The fall colors will be in high gear then.

Years ago, one would think of cranberry sauce only served at holiday dinners. Not any more. With the popularity of cranberry juice as a fruit drink, cranberries are eaten, or the juice is drunk, year round. Store shelves have cranberry juice straight or mixed with other fruit juices. It's good and good for you.

I don't know why I didn't know about Wisconsin cranberries before, because some farms have been growing the red berry for 125 years. Guess most people think Wisconsin is just famous for cheese and beer.

Oh, and don't forget another use for cranberries. Stringing them to decorate the Christmas tree. I bet many of you have done it in the past and maybe still do.

Have a very merry Christmas.


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