Monday, October 12, 2015

Playing Tourist Again

First I wish to announce that the winner of the FREE copy of Judith Durant's One Skein Wonders for Babies book is.... Nadine Foster! (thank you random number generator!) I will be on touch soon to get your details so I can ship it out to you. Congratulations, and enjoy knitting for the wee ones in your life! 

We decided before we came here that we would take every opportunity of stuffing ourselves with as much of Massachusetts as we possibly could, knowing that we will probably move on from here to places unknown. And having never lived in the eastern part of the state, there's a lot of things we've never seen or done that I've always wanted to see and/or do. 

For example, I have always wanted to see a cranberry harvest. I have seen them on television before, but that's just not the same as BEING there.

This weekend was Columbus Day weekend, and there were festivals and celebrations a-plenty.  At the Cranberry Harvest Festival, hosted by A.D. Make peace Company (the world's largest cranberry grower!), there were activities, samples, crafters, and food trucks galore! There was live music, and a ton of things for kids to do from free pony rides to dry harvesting of cranberries and making your own take-home "bog in a cup". For bigger kids there were beer and wine tastings, and helicopter tours for a reasonable $50 per adult. The event encompasses two areas - the Frogfoot bog where the harvesting takes place, and the farm where the majority of vendors were camped out. 

After we paid our $10 per adult entry fee, we followed the map to the bus loading area bound for the bog. We boarded old-school yellow buses (flashback!) and headed into the unknown (or the woods, whichever). After a short ride we popped off of the bus outside of a barn containing a variety of cranberry related merchandise and a display of the photography of Robert "Grumpy" Conway. Conway was a longtime employee of the A.D. Make peace Company, and a nature lover and amateur photographer. There is even a race held annually in his honor - Grumpy's Harvest 5K Walk/Run - the proceeds of which go to the Cranberry Educational Foundation's Scholarship Fund. We bought some fresh raw cranberries - two pounds of them. They look amazing. It's not like I haven't seen cranberries before. I mean, I was born and reared in Massachusetts. But these berries look NOTHING like the ones found in the produce department in November.
They are full and bright and bursting with goodness. I can't wait to make them into something, although I have developed a habit for them au natural now, too. I ate about a cup of them by the end of the bog experience.

The Frogfoot Bog area hosts a bunch of activities and educational opportunities. We started with a ride around a bog in a tractor-drawn trailer; think hay-ride sans hay.
We got a great education about the berries and their history - cranberries are native to Massachusetts - about as native as it gets. The Wampanoag's taught the Europeans about them. They were essential as a food source, and were recognized medicinally as well. There are bogs in Massachusetts that have vines that are as old as 150 years.  A farmer rarely has to start a new bog in this part of the country, because the vines and bogs are well established. The berry requires specific conditions to grow, both in terms of the substrate they prefer to the climate, and while Massachusetts may be the home of the cranberry, they are now grown as far away as Canada and Oregon - although we, of course, still grow the majority of them.

Bogs are not water-filled during the growing season, and the berries do not grow in water. Rather, the water is allowed to flow into the bogs for harvest, so that the fruit can be parted from their vine hosts, and then the berries are rounded up and floated, then pulled into a giant vacuum (for lack of a better term). 
The water from that bog is then drained to the next, and the process is repeated. As the berries are lifted from the water by vacuum and hoisted onto a conveyor system, the water from the process is returned to the bog. 
I was surprised by the water conservation involved in cranberry harvest. Rather than "flushing it all down the can" so to speak, the machinery is all arranged in a way, and the bank tarped, so that as much water returns to the bog as possible. 

I love the process - berries released from their moorings, rounded up and sucked up, conveyed up and into waiting trucks, and on and on until the bog is empty and the next ready to be filled with water and beaten. My favorite part probably involved the handfuls of cranberries I got to munch down.
I've decided I like them better than raw rhubarb, and I like raw rhubarb pretty well. Maybe it's a tie.

Today, the conveyor - tomorrow a can of cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table. Thank your farmers. The guy who led our tour sells half of his berries to Ocean Spray and half to a farmer's co-operative. Literally, I may have seen berries that Gene will be snarfing down from a can in a few weeks. He does love his cranberry sauce (canned, jellied - not whole berry - and with the understanding that one can is one portion).

After we watched the wet harvest operation we took a short break for lunch. I had a disappointing cup of indifferent soup that tasted less like butternut and more like leftover macaroni and cheese. I ditched it after the first couple of bites. But I did get free Crasin samples from Ocean Spray, and a sample of their new cranberry tangerine juice.
And Gene had a fried sausage with peppers and onions.
Sometimes being an 80% vegetarian and 100% gluten free stinks - today was one of those times. At festivals I have a hard time finding anything other than french fries. No gluten, no meat...way too confusing. I am always glad when Gene pulls out the kettle corn.

Did I mention the free samples? Ocean Spray was giving away a stack of sample sized bags of various dried cranberry based snacks. Love a freebie. AND you got to build your "bog in a cup" here, too, layering rock and sand and adding a sprig of cranberry vine on top.

Also, Bigelow Tea was there with their Big Tea Bar handing out samples of hot tea and a bag to take home for later.
I got the Thin Mint tea (tastes just like the cookie!) and Gene got his favorite Pomegranate Green. I also tweeted from their and won a prize - a "tea-shirt"!

Then we went and saw dry harvesting - or more accurately, participated in dry harvesting.
Most of the berries in the supermarket bags are harvested this way. Instead of flooding the bog with water, then beating and rounding up the berries, in dry harvesting they are pulled from the vines with rake-ended collection devices, sort of like the Maine blueberry harvesting tools of yore.
We got to walk onto the bog, and experience dry harvest first hand. Kids loved this. I preferred to find a quiet spot and grab a handful and reflect on the humble berry that has probably saved countless lives, and assisted in the development of this country in ways we really don't fully appreciate.

We returned to the farm via shuttle bus, and wandered among vendors and displays and demonstrations. Johnson and Wales gave cooking demonstrations. One chef made a lovely seasonal plate featuring short ribs, kale with cranberry and pecans, and a root veg puree with a lovely little butternut pickle that I really loved. I was too far back in the pack to get the kale. He also lauded the glories of the VitaMix, which I also adore - AND I found out that any pan that a magnet can stick to can be used on an induction burner. So if I wanted to experience induction, I can buy a single burner and slap my cast iron on it just to try it out. Tempting.

We sampled some strange botanical teas from Vermont, a nice selection Vermont cheeses, and some wine from Westport Rivers Winery (may I recommend the Cinco Caes?). Then I found RIPE. They make craft juices. They also make craft bar juice. They were giving away sample bottles of both. As a general rule I do not drink juice. I don't like the extra wasted calories, I don't like that it usually is watered down or sugared up. This isn't that kind of juice. The cold pressed (never heated, never pasteurized, fresh, fresh, fresh) cranberry apple was just stunning and pure and fiberful and amazing. Madly in love. I also got a sample of 100% cranberry - nothing added! No sugar, just cranberry juice! We did get some Agave Margarita bar juice as well, but I've got no idea when we'll use it (we have 75-80 days, according to the website). We did taste a sample and it was pretty amazing, and there are recipes, both virgin and not so much virgin.

In all this was just a really fun day, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Between the free samples and the cran-u-cation, and the Johnson and Wales demo, and the oysters (I forgot about that - so there's these oysters around here from Big Rock Oyster Co in Harwich and they are just wicked freaking amazingly delicious and are probably the BEST oysters I have ever had in my life and I have eaten a lot of oysters - I've been stalking these guys at every festival and event all summer, and I got an invite to visit the farm and get a tour and learn to shuck!!) and the requisite kettle corn and sausage and pepper and onion thing (which has become a thing since Dad died and Gene now thinks it's his job to eat all the sausage that Dad would if he were still here) it was a really great day. If you're ever local to Wareham on Columbus Day weekend, I highly recommend it!

Next post maybe there will be some knitting or at least something handcraft-y. It's fall here and so easy to get lost in the season. The last hurrah before the long winter ahead. We're told it snows less here. But after last winter, I am not sure I believe.


5 comments:

ccr in MA said...

What a great write-up! I had a fun weekend myself at Apple Festival, but you make me wish I could have been at both.

Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Karma KM 2500 Wheelchair

Keep Posting:)

Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Karma KM 2500 Wheelchair

Keep Posting:)

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Sun Dry said...

This place is perfect for any kind of night you're looking for. In the downstairs area at the convention center, you can enjoy a lounge setting while talking over drinks with a small party. Or, if you're looking to mingle or have a bite to eat, you can head upstairs.