Fall is the time when many people make trips to New England to experience the fall foliage that can be seen from the treetops but there's another type of foliage that many usually miss during these trips: The type that grows in bogs. What do we mean by this? Cranberry season, of course! During the months of September through November, cranberries are in full swing which means that the cranberry bogs themselves are full of these dark, tangy berries, just waiting to be harvested. Massachusetts is known for its cranberry production and many people might not realize that this is all part of the autumn experience in New England.
While the trees above are reflecting hues of orange, red, and yellow, the bogs below are decorated in a striking array from bright red to deep crimson. Some of these bog tours even allow visitors to get up close and personal with the cranberries (pandemic rules apply, of course) so if you're ready to strap on some waders and experience the magic for yourself, here's everything that shouldn't be missed during New England's annual cranberry harvest season.
Cranberry Bog Tours
Obviously, bog tours are one of the most sought-after cranberry-themed activities that take place during the fall. For those seeking a better look at a cranberry bog and gain insight into its inner workings, Plymouth County and the towns just south of Boston are great places to schedule tours. Many of these must be booked in advance as they require reservations in order to time the tours as well as get visitors ready to walk around the bogs. Harvesting cranberries is not all that visitors will learn on these tours, however - there's a long history when it comes to growing cranberries in Massachusetts.
Much of their harvest history dates back to the earliest settlers when cranberries were first introduced to them by Native American tribes. This alone dates back to the 1600s, meaning that the art of cranberry harvesting has been going on for more than 400 centuries. While visiting the bogs, visitors also have a chance to try cranberry products as well as possibly touring facilities. Many might not realize how many things cranberries can, and are, used for, making them highly diverse and versatile in the world of fall crops. Even if visitors don't have the chance to actually get into the bog water with the cranberries, they'll learn how these incredible berries grow through peat, clay, and gravel, and are actually grown on vines in freshwater.
Cranberry Festivals Through The Fall
Massachusetts plays host to plenty of cranberry festivals throughout the fall season and each one is just as creative as the next. From September through October, cranberries are celebrated and held in high regard as the season comes to a close in early November, and this is where local vendors and cranberry harvesters have the chance to showcase their hard-earned work. At these festivals, visitors can find anything from cranberry food to some of the best cranberry juice they'll have ever tried in their lives, along with specialty cranberry items that aren't produced anywhere else in the country. Live music and great food often accompany these local events.
Local Delicacies And Menu Items Featuring Cranberries
For a chef in Massachusetts, similar to seafood, cranberries have become a staple of the state's cuisine. During the season, cranberries are infused into many things from savory dinners to decadent, tangy, and sweet desserts. Seasonal menus often reflect the cranberry harvest and account for menu specials as well as dishes that are only served one time of the year, when the berries are freshly harvested. They can be seen in anything from breakfast items, such as quick breads, muffins, and even as a compote to go over pancakes and waffles, to dinner.
As a savory twist, cranberries can be used in anything from soup to a sauce that's served over pork or poultry. Cranberries do have a sweet side to them but they also lend themselves well to a burst of fresh flavor in any menu item. While it might be surprising to know that dinner is served with a cranberry twist, according to the locals, there's nothing like it. Dessert lends itself to multitudes of creativity in Massachusetts during the fall season, as cranberries can be transformed to add balance to almost anything. This berry is no longer just a side dish that accompanies a Thanksgiving meal; in Massachusetts, it's a way of life and a means to celebrate one of the longest-growing crops in the state.