For nearly all of the 10 years I have been writing this blog, I have wanted to write a post about cranberry bogs.
Wisconsin produces more than half of the world’s cranberry supply, but all the bog action takes place on the western side of the state. So, until yesterday, I had never been to a cranberry bog.
Then, my friend Mary Abraham invited me to drive with her to the Warrens Cranberry Festival and I jumped at the chance. Molly met us there and we were kind of delighted to learn that Warrens lies almost exactly halfway between Appleton and Minneapolis.
The festival itself stretched across Warrens like a fitted sheet (not coincidentally one of the items sold in the ubiquitous tents). We think we walked past all 1,300 booths on our walk through the festival, though it was hard to be sure. The booths were everywhere — on people’s front lawns, down streets, in parks and parking lots. We saw cute crafts, tasty goodies and all kinds of cool, handy, inspiring and/or perplexing items.
Among us, we tasted a cranberry cream puff, deep-fried cranberries, a cranberry scone, cranberry coffee, cranberry lemonade and cranberry kettle corn.
We took a guided tour of the bog and learned a lot about the fruit most of us only think about when we’re trying to add a little color to our Thanksgiving plate.
Cranberries are native to Wisconsin and you can still find some wild ones growing here if you look hard enough. Most of the cranberry growers in Wisconsin participate in an agricultural cooperative with Ocean Spray dating back to 1930. As farmer-owners, the 700 shareholders in the company earn 100% of the profits from products made with their fruit.
A different Mary, our tour guide and a sixth generation cranberry grower, told us about 90% of Wisconsin’s bogs produce process cranberries, which make their way into cranberry products like juice and dried fruit. The rest are sold fresh.
Apparently, Wisconsin produces so many cranberries due to our climate, all that sandy soil left by the glaciers, and our cheerful willingness to haul on waders and climb into occasionally near-freezing water to harvest those little buggers.