Cranberry Mini Unit Study

Cranberry Mini Unit Study

In my previous post, I added pictures of my son Matt helping his grandfather with the cranberry harvest. here

My father oversees the cranberry harvest as my son Matt works corralling berries.

My dad is a third generation cranberry grower. My great grandparents, Fiilus and Lempi Harju  were Finnish immigrants who came to America in 1902 and 1903, met here and married in 1904. They bought a house in Carver, MA in 1910 which had lots of land for a farm and  a couple of small cranberry bogs. They worked the bogs themselves.

My grandfather, Wilho Harju talks about his life as a cranberry grower in his book, History of the Finnish Settlers of Carver, Massachusetts.

My Grandfather’s book. On the cover is my great grandmother on her hands and knees setting (planting) cranberry vines.

  He writes:

” In the old days of hand setting (planting cranberry vines) some was done by contract but a lot of women did this, too. I have time books (wages) for 1916 and 1918 that show the wages were ten cents an hour. The men got $2.00 per nine hour day; if you worked your horse, it got $1.00 per day.  During harvest season whole families would go picking for others. My family always picked for Clayton McFarlin, not the largest grower probably the best in his day. I started using a snap machine at nine years old. I was picking by hand and my father said, “What are you picking by hand for? Try this snap machine. ” We got ten cents a six-quart measure. Clayton was a very fussy man. He didn’t like his bog tore up or to leave any bottom berries, so he saw me with a snap and got right behind me to see how I was making out. He didn’t say a word, so I guess I passed scrutiny.”

Any work to do with bogs wasn’t easy, but they were used to hard work…Whenever my father would have a neighbor work for him, at quitting time he was always invited into the house and served coffee and nisu, a cardamom flavored coffee bread. In the old days there weren’t motels or places to stay for a traveler, especially a foot traveler and in our house we had a chest with a cover, one end for wood and the other end for boots and shoes, behind the wood stove; and on cold nights it was a real cozy place and several travelers passing through spent the night there. Quite different from today. And the door was never locked.”

Today, our family grows for Ocean Spray.

If you are not familiar with a cranberry bog or cranberry history, this may make a fun mini-unit study for you this fall. 🙂

Some History:

Ocean Spray Cranberry History here.

Cape Cod Growers Association History here

My dad, explaining the harvest in video here

Explanation of the two ways to harvest cranberries:

Wet Picking- Fruit harvested this way can be used for jelly, sauce, juices and Craisins.- watch short video here

Dry Picking– Fruit harvested this way can be sold as “fresh fruit.” – Slide show and link to YouTube video here

Photos and Video of my kids using their grandfather’s old antique cranberry separator. here

Vintage Photos of the Dry Harvest when it was done by hand:  here

My Uncle Paul and his grandson, Graham. Isn’t this the cutest picture?
My cousin Julie’s little boy, Graham, with his grandfather looking at the berries.
Graham with a cranberry. How cute is that??

Coloring Page : American Cranberry

Easy Recipes:

Cranberry Sauce

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 12 ounce bag Ocean Spray Fresh Cranberries

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil and add cranberries. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temp. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 ¼ cups.

Optional: you can add a little orange zest to the cranberries if you like.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Quick, easy and beautiful on the Thanksgiving table. My grandmother has made this every year for I don’t know how long! 

2 cups cranberries, fresh

1 med. Unpeeled Orange, quartered, seeds removed (yes, you leave the skin on!!)

¾-1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it.

Slice unpeeled orange into eights and remove seeds. Place half the cranberries and half the orange in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside. Do the same with the remaining berries and orange, pulsing coarsely. Stir in the sugar to taste and refrigerate until serving time!

And of course, the best lesson is to go see it for yourself. If you are in Massachusetts, the Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration in Wareham, Mass. is going on Columbus Day Weekend. Info here.

“This fun family event features juried crafters, activities for children, animal shows, cooking demonstrations, food vendors, pony and wagon rides, and much more. The highlight of the day is an opportunity to witness a working cranberry bog.


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