NJ’s Cranberry Harvest Season is Underway
New Jersey’s cranberry season usually starts in late spring and early summer when the berries grow. But cranberry harvest season begins in late September.
When the cranberries are seen floating on the water in the bog, that’s actually the end of the harvest cycle, said Assistant New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, Joe Atchison.
How are cranberries harvested in New Jersey?
“The cranberries grow and ripen all season long on dry ground in the bog. Then, when it’s time for harvest, they flood the bogs, they knock the berries off the vines, and then, they harvest them when they float. Then they divert the water back to the original source,” Atchison said.
The berries will stay on the vines until special machines knock the berries off. The good berries will then float to the surface of the water in the bog. he added.
The farmers go out with specialized equipment, wearing hip weighters. They push the berries to a central location in the bog. As they float to the surface, they are corralled by a boom. The farmers then bring the cranberries up through a suction pump into the trucks. The trucks then transport the berries to the distribution center, Atchison explained.
Do cranberries make a big impact on New Jersey’s economy?
In terms of the pounds produced, in 2021, cranberries were the number two crop in New Jersey with almost 59 million pounds harvested, according to the National Ags Statistics Service.
In terms of actual production value, the cranberry crop itself in New Jersey was measured at $23.2 million for the 2021 harvest, according to the statistics service.
Are New Jersey’s cranberries famous?
“A large majority of our cranberries are sold as part of a cooperative with Ocean Spray, so if you see cranberry juice or Craisins, there’s a good chance those are Jersey cranberries in there,” Atchison said.
While Jersey cranberries are sold mostly to Ocean Spray within the United States, Ocean Spray has export deals with other countries for their finished products, he said.
When can we buy NJ cranberries?
With harvest season just underway in the Garden State, people can start to look now for fresh, locally grown cranberries at farm stands, farmers’ markets, and supermarkets, Atchison said.
People are encouraged to ask for local or look for the Jersey Fresh label to be certain they are buying Jersey Fresh cranberries.
How to store NJ cranberries at home?
Atchison said fresh cranberries can stay cold in the refrigerator for a few weeks. As long as they are firm, they are still good. Once they get soft, it’s time to toss them.
He also suggested freezing Jersey cranberries. They can be kept frozen for a few months to be used at a later date, especially when it’s time to prepare that fresh, homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.