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Highbush Cranberry-fest

09.27.10

I’d had enough of reading about Karlynn‘s foraging successes, especially having spent far too much time harvesting far too few berries of the low-bush variety. Rather than a sheet pan one layer deep of low-bush, roughly the same amount of time spent picking highbush yielded 21 lbs of fruit. As you can see in the photo, highbush cranberry grows rather tall, into loose trees up to 15+ feet tall, and will fruit throughout the tree, resulting in many, many clusters of about a dozen berries per. It adds up fast.

We picked on a trail we used to walk daily for years, so my wife and I know it well – where the good spots are for every type of wild berry or mushroom one might want to harvest. This year, we didn’t make it half way to the first good spot, because the fruit was EVERYWHERE. I could have spent a week straight picking in that ravine, and likely still have fruit to pick. I get this strange fervor that comes over me when berry picking – I can’t stop. I get zoned into what I’m convinced is a genetically programmed bliss when foraging,  something pushing me to keep going, despite all logic suggesting I have enough. It’s strange, but fun.

So I made some jelly. Rather, I failed at making jelly. So I have syrup, which is okay by me. More importantly in my mind, I had enough juice [I juiced it in my fruit press], that I decided to try a small batch of wine. Very exciting, as I love the concept of pairing game meats with fruit wine from the bush where the game animals live, and have never made highbush cranberry wine. Coincidentally, I was at En Santé Organic Winery and Meadery a few hours after pitching yeast into the wine, shooting their ‘From Local Farms‘ episode, and I had the opportunity to try their highbush cranberry wine for the first time. It’s distinctly representative of the fruit, akin to a rosé with all kinds of structure on the palate. Orchard and wild fruit wines can lack in the structure department, so this was an important discovery for me. The opportunity to blend that structure into other wines – like saskatoon – is quite intriguing.

So thanks, Karlynn, for the kick in the butt to get out there. Turned out to be one of the best years I can remember for yield.  And there are still loads of berries out there – so get out and pick  all that free, local, wild food before the season ends!!!

6 Responses

  1. Karlynn says:

    I had a good laugh this morning because I get where you are coming from. I have to stop myself from going back and picking more, the visions of berries just dripping from trees in the river valley haunt me. The urge to go back and pick them is driving me crazy, but I have to tell myself to move on to the next fall project. I am crediting the berry explosion to the massive amounts of rainfall this year, because I have never seen so many berries. Glad you got out there!

  2. Barry says:

    Wow amazing color on that. Looks very interesting!

  3. I am exactly the same. I will pic until I pass out if there is fruit that is ripe and lush and need plucking. I hate waste and I am a very, very greedy forager when it comes to berry picking. I am sad I missed it. I have never ever picked wild high bush cranberries. From the sound of your post, you did this a bit back, and I am led to believe they are long gone. Am I right – or is there still some there?
    I am dying for your comments on our apple pressing experience. Have you read it yet. I am certain you will be amused.
    :)
    Valerie

  4. Karlynn says:

    Hey Valerie, there are tons left in the River Valley still, I went only a week ago, and the berries I picked were still not a deep dark ripe red, just a salmon color. There is still oh-so much time to get out there picking.

  5. [...] into the bush to pick another round of the abundant crop of highbush cranberries. I’d picked 20 lbs already. I really didn’t need more. But only a few days prior, I’d been out to En Sante Organic [...]

  6. [...] we went high bush cranberry picking in the fall after I asked him if I could go with him once I read his post about it. Yes, on it [...]

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