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Cranberries grow along the West Coast, from Oregon to British Columbia, and most are harvested for Ocean Spray. Get fresh cranberries now.

PGM PHOTOS: BARB RANDALL - Joan Robbins, left, and Cynthia Barr, with Barb Randall, happened upon the Cranberrian Fair taking place on the Long Beach Peninsula recently. They learned about cultivating cranberries at a working cranberry bog.

I have a new reverence for those bright red orbs.

We learned that cranberry farming in the southwest corner of Washington State has been going on for more than 100 years, inspired by a visitor from Massachusetts who observed native berries growing in the marshes, which resembled those of Cape Cod. A partnership of four entrepreneurs purchased more than 1,600 acres on the peninsula between 1872 and 1877 for as little as $1 an acre.

Unfortunately the industry went stagnant between 1877 and the turn of the century. Cranberries were popular only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the East Coast bogs could satisfy demand. Marketing West Coast cranberries was expensive due to its geographical isolation, start up costs for bogs was high and taxes were frequently higher than profits.

However, according to the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation (PCCRF) help arrived in the early 1920s with J.D. Crowley conducting tests over a 30-year period at the Cranberry Research Station at Long Beach, and was able to make recommendations for resolving issues with pests, frost and other local problems. Growers didn't immediately adopt his recommendations and then the Great Depression hit, which whittled the number of committed farmers down to just a few in the area.

The next 40 years brought many changes to cultivation methods, which increased production yields and quality of fruit. A significant change during the 1940s was the switch from dry to wet harvesting by many of the growers.

Today there are about 235 cranberry growers on the West Coast, from British Columbia to Oregon. Most of these growers (99%) are part of the Ocean Spray cooperative, which includes 700 growers throughout the United States, Canada and Chile.

The Cranberrian Fair takes place the second weekend in October during cranberry harvest each year.

The industry now enjoys year-round demand, offering a variety of juices, canned goods and cranberry products. Ocean Spray says their most popular items are the originals: cranberry juice and canned cranberry sauces.

And why should we eat cranberries? Cranberries are touted as one of Mother Nature's superfoods, with many health benefits. Cranberries have anti-bacterial properties that help prevent certain bacteria from causing urinary tract infections. They are bursting with antioxidants and both prebiotics and probiotics to keep the good gut bacteria in balance.

And of course they just taste great.

You will be seeing bags of fresh cranberries in the markets now. Pick up a bag or two and start experimenting. Both the PCCRF (cranberrymuseum.com) and the Ocean Spray (oceanspray.com) websites have inventive recipes for using fresh cranberries. I've included a traditional orange and cranberry sauce, which you will want to serve alongside your Thanksgiving turkey. The other recipes give you a fresh perspective on how to showcase cranberries' bright flavor.

The Cranberrian Fair takes place the second weekend of October each year. You can visit a working cranberry farm and learn about cranberry cultivation, plus try delicious cranberry products. Put it on your calendar for next year.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Barb Randall holds a few cranberries she scooped up from the bog.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish

Makes 3 cups

1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded

1 12-ounce package of Ocean Spray fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

¾ to 1 cup sugar

Place half the cranberries and half the orange slices in food processors container. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in sugar. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Recipe courtesy of Ocean Spray

Cranberry Wild Rice Salad

6 ounce bag of long grain wild rice mixture

6 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup cranberry juice

1 scallion, minced

1 carrot, peeled and julienned

¼ cup pecans, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons peanut oil

2 teaspoons vinegar

Salt and pepper

Cook wild rice according to package directions and cool. This can be done up to two days in advance. Combine cranberries, sugar and cranberry juice, cook until cranberries pop slightly. Combine cranberries and cooked rice with the rest of the ingredients.

Recipe courtesy of Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation

Crockpot Curry with Cranberry and Butternut Squash

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 small yellow onion, chopped

¾ cup Ocean Spray Craisins, Dried Cranberries

3 garlic cloves, minced

15-ounce can stewed tomato

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 teaspoons turmeric

3 teaspoons garam masala

14-ounce can coconut milk

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tablespoon cornstarch

15-ounce can chickpeas

2 cups fresh spinach (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown basmati rice or quinoa,

Parsley for garnish, chopped

½ cup Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries

Pumpkin seeds, garnish (optional)

Add coconut oil, butternut squash, cauliflower, onion, Craisins, garlic, stewed tomato, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, garam masala, coconut milk, lime juice and vegetable stock to a slow cooker.

Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and add to the slow cooker.

Cook on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours. Add chickpeas and spinach just before serving.

Serve curry over rice, garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Ocean Spray.com.

Barb Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-479-2374 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She is the author of "Willamette Valley Wineries" and a member of the Society of Wine Educators. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.


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