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Julia Nunes: A 'super fruit' worth celebrating

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Again this year, visitors from all over the world visited Warrens to savor and enjoy our state’s fruit: the cranberry.

Native to North America, cranberries have a strong tie to Wisconsin. The first marshes in our state date back to the 1830s, which is almost 200 years ago.

According to U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee, Edward Sackett of Sackett Harbor, N.Y., first traveled to Berlin, Wisconsin, to inspect some land. There, he found 700 acres of wild cranberry vines and decided to cultivate the marshes. Since Edward’s time, growers in Wisconsin have been tending to and caring for this little red super-fruit.

Today, more than 250 cranberry growers can be found throughout central and northern Wisconsin. The sandy soils in this region of our state are perfect for growing these tart berries.

Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. Cranberries are a perennial plant that grows on vines in special fields called bogs and marshes. When it is time to harvest the berries, the marshes are flooded with water.

Thanks to a pocket of air inside cranberries, the berries will float to the surface of the water when the marsh is flooded. Harvesting equipment will then come by and collect the berries. Each year, cranberries are harvested from late September through the end of October.

Now is the best time to find fresh cranberries in your local grocery store. Fresh cranberries are usually only available right after harvest season, which ranges from October to December.

Of all the cranberries harvested in Wisconsin, only about 3% will end up being sold as fresh berries. The majority of cranberries are processed into cranberry products that can be enjoyed year-round. While cranberry juice and cranberry sauce may come to mind first, the list of ways to enjoy cranberries seems almost endless. Have you ever tried cranberry cheese? What about cranberry salsa? Cranberry ice cream, cranberry mustard, and cranberry sausage are just a few of the many unique options!

According to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, cranberries score among the highest of all fruits in antioxidants. Diets that include fruits and vegetables with high antioxidant values, like cranberries, can help support memory function and coordination. Cranberries are also cholesterol-free, fat-free, and low in sodium and help maintain a healthy heart.

This harvest season, celebrate the little red fruit that packs a big punch. Not only are cranberries healthy, but delicious. These berries represent Wisconsin’s rich agriculture history and are truly woven into our state’s history. Learn more about our state’s fruit and find recipes for your next cranberry dish at wiscran.org.

Julia Nunes, of Chippewa Falls, is the 73rd& 74th Alice in Dairyland.

 

Julia Nunes, of Chippewa Falls, is the 73rd& 74th Alice in Dairyland.

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