Local cranberries are smaller, brighter, and more flavor-filled than their east coast cousins.
European immigrants began farming the tart cranberry locally approximately 150 years ago after noting the wild growth of native cranberries. In the early 1870s, a visitor from Massachusetts observed the berry farming and remarked on the region’s similarity to Cape Cod. Subsequently, a partnership of four entrepreneurs purchased approximately 1,600 local acres for as little as a dollar an acre. Today, the majority of Washington cranberry farms belong to an Ocean Spray cooperative.
Today, no spot in the world is more favored than the Peninsula for the culture of cranberries. The peninsula has exactly the right combination of sand ridges, deep peat bogs, and cool climate needed to grow the cranberry. The climate here renders berries with more color than those grown in other places.
Because of the delicious color, most local cranberries are destined to become juice; this means they are “wet harvested.” Bogs are flooded and workers corral the ripe, floating berries into one corner of the bog where they are bounced up a conveyor to a waiting truck.
Autumn is a perfect time for cranberry lovers to visit the Peninsula. Harvest is typically the second week of October; right after the first cold frost brightens the berries’ bright color. “Fall is a peaceful time at the beach with fewer people, days of spectacular weather mixed with an occasional storm,” Andi Day, executive director of Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau says.
It’s also time for the annual Cranberrian Fair, where visitors can join locals in rejoicing the harvest and celebrating this wonderful little fruit. The event includes activities and displays at two museums, bus and bog tours, and opportunities for all to see the harvest up close and personal, and taste, taste, taste! U-Pick berries at Cranguyma, the areas largest cranberry farm, and visit the Cranberry Museum for some tempting recipes, history, and more.