Behind the Scenes at a Cranberry Bog

Rachel Tepper Paley

“Contrary to popular belief, cranberries don’t grow underwater," Nicole Cotroneo Jolly says in this installation of How Does It Grow. But if that’s true, what’s with the marshes filled with thousands of tiny bobbing berries, like those in Ocean Spray commercials?

They’re no fantasy. Although cranberries grow on dry land, their fields are flooded twice a year: once in the winter, to insulate the berries from frost, and again for the October harvest.

Why the second soak? “Inside [every berry], there are four air chambers, which means that cranberries can float,” Jolly explains. “A harvester drives through [the marsh] to knock the berries off the vines, then farmers wade into the bog to corral the floating berries to an elevator that sucks them up into a truck.” Next stop, a processing plant. After that, your local supermarket.

You can go on cranberry marsh tours in certain states—Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, to name a few—and after watching this, we can understand the appeal. Flooding the marshes is an effective harvesting method, but it also makes for quite the beautiful spectacle.

More insight into your favorite fruits and veggies:

Great apples aren’t grown… they’re grafted

Get to know the mysterious mushroom

Garlic, the original superfood?

Are you surprised by the story of the cranberry? Share your thoughts below!