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Cranberries - History and Lore

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Cranberries are native to North America. In Canada they were found growing wild in the maritimes, eastern Ontario and Northern Eastern/Central parts of the United States. They’ve been naturalized in Europe.

The common commercially planted cranberry is Vaccinium macrocarpon. There are over a hundred varieties of cranberries within this species.

How Cranberries Grow

Vaccinium macrocarpon is a perennial shrub that grows low and covers the ground like a mat. The cranberries grow on vines like strawberries. The shrub thrives in perfect conditions created by soil and water of boggy wetlands.

The flowers were said to resemble the head of a crane. Giving the shrub the name “crane berry.”

Settlers and Cranberries

As a plant native to North America, Indigenous people have enjoyed the delicious and nutritious benefits of cranberries for thousands of years.

When settlers arrived they met this incredible fruit for the first time. They were so enthusiastic about cranberries that laws had to be made to prevent overharvesting in the wild.

In the 1700s cranberries became the first fruit of the “new world” to be sold commercially in London, England. The first commercial bog in Canada was planted in 1870 in Nova Scotia. Commercial bogs are now in BC, Ontario, Quebec and

the Maritime provinces.

Cranberries and the Fae Folk

Cranberries share homes with fairies, they both love bogs! The glowing lights seen hovering over marshes at night, were said to be haunting fae folk luring travellers in the eerie depth of the bogs. They were known as Jack-o-Lantern or Will-o-the-Wisp. These lights are scientifically known as marsh gas.

"As doors to the next world go, a bog ain't a bad choice. It's not quite water and it's not quite land -- it's an in-between place." - Ransom Riggs


Recommended reading: "Love Letter to a Bog" by Sharon Blackie.

"A bog doesn’t give up its secrets easily, but it calls you to uncover them nevertheless.

The lure of a bog-pool, which beckons you over to look down on its bright mirrored surface, the perfect blue of the sky an antidote to the relentless black of the peat. But when you stand over it (if you make it that far) all reflections disappear; there is only you, and the dark.

Reach down with your fingers if you dare. Who knows what you might touch? Who knows what mysteries you might uncover? To love a bog is to love all that lies buried beneath the surface, buried in its rich, ripe flesh."

Swamp Gas by Steve Baxter


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