When I think of crops native to Massachusetts, cranberries are the first to come to mind. Cranberries require specific conditions to grow — acidic soil, a constant supply of fresh water, and a growing season that goes from April to November. Massachusetts cranberries are unique, because they are harvested from glacier-formed bogs that naturally meet these conditions, rather than the man-made bogs used in other parts of the country.
This month in the schools, we’re celebrating cranberries by tasting delicious cranberry tea at lunch. We’ll also learn about how to bounce a cranberry to see if it’s ripe, and break them open to explore what it is that makes them float in water (each cranberry has a tiny air pocket inside).
On Martha’s Vineyard, we’re lucky to have one of the few certified organic commercial cranberry bogs in the country, the bog at the Vineyard Open Lands Foundation. You can find their cranberries for sale direct from the VOLF as well as at Cronig’s and Morning Glory Farm. When shopping for cranberries, try to buy Massachusetts-grown. Look for firm, smooth berries that are deep red in color.
My favorite way to enjoy cranberries is to sprinkle dried “craisins” on top of oatmeal or in a smoothie for a tart, refreshing taste. You can also incorporate cranberries into your meals this month by crushing them into juice or seltzer, blending them with apple and a little sugar for a quick cranberry relish, or using them in place of raisins in cookie, muffin, and quick bread recipes. Or try our featured recipe for cranberry tea!
Recipe by Gabrielle Sullo
1 ½ oz fresh or frozen cranberries
3 apples, cored and diced
2 whole cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
4 cups of water
Juice of 3 oranges
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp. honey
In a medium stock pot, bring water to a boil. Add cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Cook on medium heat for at least 20 minutes, until all cranberries are cracked and gushy. Turn off heat and fish out the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
Strain liquid through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a container, pressing the juice out of the cranberries and apples with a spoon. Set the fruit remains aside (you can use this as the base of a cranberry sauce or chutney) or add it to your compost.
Once the liquid has cooled a bit, strain the lemon and orange juice into the cranberry liquid. Then add the honey for some sweetness if serving chilled.
You can serve this as hot tea or iced. Just use 1:2 ratio of cranberry liquid to hot water. Sweeten to taste and enjoy.
Ava Castro is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school program.