Posted by by Colin Lyons, produce buyer
Friday, November 1, 2013
The air has once again turned brisk and I cannot help but to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I know turkey is usually the number one food for most people during this holiday; the annual pilgrimage to the meat department is something I certainly do. Turkey is good, but I am a produce guy, and when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of cranberries!
For more than 20 years, Lunds and Byerly’s has grown a wonderful relationship with the local Wetherby Cranberry Company to bring our customers the finest cranberries in the world. This exclusive item has been a staple on our shelves from harvest time well into winter.
The Wetherby Cranberry Company is a family owned and operated cranberry marsh located in Warrens, Wisc. Wetherby has been in business for more than 100 years and specializes in high-quality, fresh fruit. The marsh is operated by Jim and Nodji VanWychen, together with their son Henry and son-in-law Michael Gnewikow. Jim and Nodji's other children all live nearby, and with their families they help out in the operations whenever needed. The eight grandchildren, who represent the 5th generation born on the Wetherby marsh, are learning the ways of the marsh to ensure a bright family future for the Wetherby Cranberry Company.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the this farm and learn more about the process of growing, harvesting, sorting and packing those beautiful little red berries.
Cranberries are grown in very large bogs that are separated by an elevated berm. In these bogs, very low cranberry vines or shrubs are grown. Cranberries like a very acidic environment, so Wetherby introduces limestone sand to the bogs in order to maintain the correct levels of acidity.
When berries are fully mature, the cranberry bogs are then filled with water until the vines are covered by roughly six inches. At this point, the harvester enters the bog and large metal tines go to work within the vines, shaking all of the cranberries free. After a berry is free from the vine, it floats up to the surface because of the small pockets of air inside.
With all of the cranberries now floating, long float booms are deployed in order to corral the berries down to one end of the bog. A large vacuum boom is then lowered into the water to suck all of the berries into a washer. This washer sprays each and every cranberry with high pressure water to remove any stems or leaves that remain. Then it is off to the cooling shed and packing house.
Wetherby Cranberry Company is one of the few (if not the only) cranberry grower/shipper to use a high speed optical sorter in their packing house. This machine uses high speed cameras and puffs of air to remove any cranberries that do not meet their strict color and quality standards. This really sets Wetherby cranberries apart from the rest and provides you with the tastiest cranberries around.
Within just a few days, these freshly packed cranberries are in our stores, ready to be put into a sauce, relish, or some other delicious treat.
What is your favorite way to use cranberries? I would love to hear!