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Fresh from the Cranberry Bogs

November 19th, 2008 · 7 Comments

Part One of Two on sustainable cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving dinner… While cranberry-sauce-in-a-can is always on our Thanksgiving table to appease my “traditionalist” husband and in-laws, I make one or two fresh variations as well. I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of cranberry bogs. While my home state Oregon actually boasts a few, I have never seen one in person. In other random cranberry facts, did you know that cranberries are one of the few native North American fruits? And that the cranberry capital of the US is Wisconsin, with Massachusetts in second place? Nutritionally, cranberries provide a boost of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber.

If you’re like me, one of the first steps you probably took to “go green” was swapping out plastic bottles for a few reusable bottles. (We’re fans of the Sigg (especially for kids) and Klean Kanteen here at the Foodie Tots household.) Then you probably started noticing the news reports about what’s really in that bottled water and just how polluted your tap water really is. (Especially if you’re lucky enough to live in lead pipe-supplied D.C.) Yeah yeah, enough with the science lesson, how does this relate to Thanksgiving dinner?

Cranberry bogs. I was brushing off my maple cranberry sauce recipe and started wondering just what chemicals might lurk in those mysterious bogs. Then I realized they probably add pesticides on top of whatever groundwater contaminants are already there. Sure enough, cranberries are treated with 22 different types of pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, etc.), which are then discharged into lakes, rivers and wetlands. And cranberry bogs are exempt from the Clean Water Act (!).

So I pointed my trusty Google towards “organic cranberry bog” and discovered this great little video from Nantucket, Connecticut, where the Nantucket Conservation Fund is slowly converting traditional bogs to all-natural cranberry plots. (Remember that crops have to be grown organically for a number of years before they can obtain organic certification, so there is a significant lag time.)

As retold in the video, their organic cranberries garner three times the price of conventional, but they put about four times as much labor into maintaining the bogs. Organic bogs also produce a lower yield, which is further disincentive in a conventional food system that values quantity over all else. They are making progress, however. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Cranberry Station is also conducting research and outreach to increase the use of integrated pest management (IPM, or less-pesticide) techniques in cranberry bogs.

So check your local grocery and spring for the organic berries if you can find them – Thanksgiving only comes once a year, after all, and now you can enjoy your meal knowing a little less pesticide is entering our water (and your kids – after all, cranberries soaking in toxins for months at a time can’t simply be rinsed clean). And you can wash it down with organic Triple Eight cranberry vodka, straight from Nantucket.

Up next, where to find organic cranberries and a recipe to enjoy them in.

“Behind the label” is a new series by that highlights the sustainability issues behind our food, and brings you the facts you won’t find in the glossy food mags who rely on ad revenue from big agribusiness.


Tags: behind the label · eco-friendly · food for thought · fresh from the... · holiday · ingredients · recipes · water

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gera // Nov 19, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Colleen!

    Like you I try to go green as much as possible. It’s no easy to find organic products but the trend is established all over the world! This organic berries looks yummy.
    Step by step we’ll have success having an eco-friendly environment.

    Gera .:. sweetsfoods

  • 2 Lelo // Nov 19, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you. I’ve been wondering about these exact things!

    And can I just say, your blog keeps getting better and better?! Nice work Colleen.

  • 3 Jill // Nov 20, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I guess I should be in charge of cranberries ( or “chanberries,” if you remember that episode of “Friends” ), so we can be sure to have organic sauce!

  • 4 » Blog Archive » Organic Spiced Cranberry Sauce // Nov 20, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    […] Fresh from the Cranberry Bogs 20 Nov Organic Spiced Cranberry […]

  • 5 Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener » Consider the (Cranberry) Shrub // Nov 21, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    […] cultivation of cranberries – specifically organic vs. non-organic – read Colleen Levine’s “Fresh from the Cranberry Bogs” post on […]

  • 6 Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener // Nov 21, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for the post, Colleen. Naive me – I thought cranberries were pretty care free and therefore organic by default! It is indeed worth looking for organic ones – but not necessarily easy to find then as you point out in a later post.

    Actually, I appreciated the information so much, I provide a link back from my own post on making cranberry shrub (


  • 7 michelle // Nov 20, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I have seen the cranberry bogs in bandon, oregon and they are amazing…as was bandon longer an independent cheese maker since I was there though……since we live in california, we only buy organic oregon berries…….they are pretty easy to find at the local co-op and health food stores and since the relish I make is raw I especially like the oregon grown berries….less mileage and they chop up firmer since they did not live in some plastic bag from the east coast!