Where Cranberries Come From

This is no dry routine—the modern cranberry harvest is truly a sight to behold.

Richard Ross

Pilgrims and Indians alike hand-picked wild cranberries around Cape Cod for the first Thanksgiving. Today, most are grown in man-made bogs and harvested by the billions, with the help of modern technology. In the bogs of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, on the first day of the wet harvest—which produces berries for juice and sauces— just enough water is pumped into the bogs so that water reels (which look like eggbeaters crossed with Victorian bicycles) can be driven across the bogs to churn up the water and shake the berries from their vines. The next day, more water is pumped in, and the berries float to the surface. Crews jump into the water, corral the berries with linked wooden planks or lengths of plastic tubing called booms, and funnel them into trucks.

The dry harvest, which yields fruit to be sold fresh in bags, is also an amazing sight. Roaming mechanical pickers comb the bogs, gathering the berries off the vine and into bins that are airlifted to dry land by helicopters.