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.