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For the indigenous people of eastern North America, they were called "sassamanesh." Cape Cod Pequots and South Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes called them "ibimi," or bitter berry. And the Algonquins of Wisconsin dubbed the fruit "atoqua.” But it was the early German and Dutch settlers who started calling it the "crane berry” because of the flower’s resemblance to the head and bill of a crane. And finally, that was the name that stuck.
Cranberries are one of the most unique fruits in the world. One of only three fruits native to North America, cranberries grow in the wild on long-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. While they’re primarily harvested in the Northeast, cranberries also grow in other parts of North America, like Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest, and in Chile.
It was Native Americans who first took advantage of the cranberry’s many natural attributes. By mixing mashed cranberries with deer meat, they made a survival food called pemmicana. They also believed in the medicinal value of the cranberry, using the berry in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. And the rich red juice of the cranberry was used as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing. All just some of the reasons the cranberry has been called the ‘wonderberry’.
But even with its many uses, cranberries weren’t farmed on a large scale until the 1800s. At first, growers picked the berries by hand. They then developed a more efficient dry harvesting technique, later revolutionizing the process with an idea called wet harvesting. By flooding the bog with water, the cranberry’s buoyancy allows it to float to the surface, where they are collected.
And since that time, Ocean Spray farmers have continued to harvest the cranberries that go into the juices and snacks you’ve come to love. Learn more about our cranberry harvest.