Everything you need to know about Cranberries on Cape Cod

Cranberries from Thacher Farm on Cape Cod

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about cranberries. We like to place our order directly with a local cranberry bog so that we know they are fresh and farm to table perfect! We have made a connection with Thacher Farms which is a family owned cooperative that supplies Ocean Spray and has been growing cranberries on Cape Cod for over 60 years. This year we are hoping to catch some pictures of their fall harvest. Byron is anxiously awaiting the delivery of his new Cannon camera-hoping the camera arrives in time.

We have always said that being a successful innkeeper requires us to wear many different hats. The same is true for a cranberry farmer as while they are extra busy during harvest time, there are always many things to do during the other seasons- including maintaining the bogs and equipment, setting up the irrigation, monitoring for insects, fertilizing and pruning, and accounting. A successful small business’s  work is never done!

Every fall our Cape Cod’s cranberry bogs are transformed from dull fields into a colorful landscape of floating red berries.

Cranberry harvesting on Cape Cod

After flooding the bog with water, the berries have small air pockets which allows them to float to the surface of the water. A boom is used to corral all the berries together where they are pumped from the bog and into a detrasher that cleans and separates the berries. They are then transferred to a waiting truck that hauls the fresh cranberries to an Ocean Spray plant in Carver, Ma where they are made into juice or frozen for future use.

We purchase cranberries that are dry picked berries in late October. The fresh berries are dry picked, placed in burlap sacks and later dumped into wooden containers.

Fall berries to share with our guests

We love to share the fresh cranberries with our guests, use them in our holiday recipes and then freeze what’s left over to use later in the season.

Learning a little history of this wonderful berry-

(History information gathered from an article in Fortune magazine)

The seventeenth-century pioneers found the cranberry growing wild among beach-plum and bayberry bushes in the clearings behind their Plymouth settlement. They learned from the Indians that it was not only nonpoisonous but more palatable when cooked. It was called “craneberry,” after the pink-and-white blossom that resembles the bill, head, and curved neck of the wading crane.

 For a hundred years the progress of the cranberry industry greatly depended on former sea captains to trade their crops around the world. The number of Cape Cod bogs steadily increased, and cranberry culture also developed in the West.

 Today there are over 28,000 acres of cranberry bogs in the nation, with Cape Cod leading with over 13,700 acres.

The modern, or tame cranberry is larger and more prolific than its wild and rugged ancestor, has a high acid and low sugar content, is rich in iodine, vitamin C, and other food values, and like quince is normally eaten only after cooking. There are fifty-odd known varieties, with Cape Cod growers usually growing only two kinds. Favored by the growers of Barnstable and Plymouth counties is the Early Black, which ripens to its deep red color in September, is a good producer and “keeper,” makes excellent sauce, and is preferred for canning. The lighter red Howes, which is grown to about equal extent, is very desirable from a packing and marketing point of view since it matures later than the Early Black. Both berries are shipped fresh and used for canning and other processing.

Cape Cod bay beach

Today was a perfect Cape Cod fall day. We walked the beach with Harrison and felt thankful to be surrounded by so much natural beauty.

Consider a fall trip to Cape Cod and a stay at the Captain Freeman Inn where you can enjoy a quiet seaside town and see first hand how cranberries are harvested. Many of the local bogs offer tours.   We like to hop on our bikes, ride the Cape Cod Bike path and stop to see the Cape Cod bogs that are along the bike path.

Fall biking on the Cape Cod rail trail

Thinking about cranberry recipes, I thought it would be fun to share our Cranberry Oatmeal cookie recipe. Its been a guest favorite and the fresh cranberries really do make the cookie.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 36 cookies
This is our all time favorite cookie at the Freeman. During our busy season we make this recipe at least once a week. It's important to use old fashion oats and good chocolate.
  • 1¼ AP flour, sifted
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups old fashion rolled oats
  • 1 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, cut in half
  • 4 ounces good chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, powder and salt. In a second bowl stir together the oats, pecans, cranberries and chocolate. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl and add the egg and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds. With the mixer on low, gradually add the oat/nut mixture until just combined. Give the dough a final stir with a spatula to ensure no flour is on the bottom. Using a small ice cream scoop- spoon batter onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use the palm of your hand to press down each cookie to be approximately ½" thick. Bake for approximately 12 minutes. Rotate sheet and bake for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Do not over-bake. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack with a meal spatula to cool completely.

Also not to be missed this fall is our annual Wellfleet Oyster Festival on October 14th & 15th. Check out a past blog for details.

Our Cape Cod Dinner Package, beginning on October 22nd, is a perfect way to come and enjoy our beautiful peninsula during our quiet season and to enjoy a gourmet meal included in your package. While the package includes your choice of 6 restaurants, we love to recommend Spinnakers, which is just a few steps from the inn. Come relax by your fireplace, walk on the beach and enjoy a bike ride past our many picturesque towns, cranberry bogs and the National Seashore.

Select Registry, Cape Cod Chamber, AIHP
PackagesCheck out our new Quiet Season Dinner Package

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