Cranberry Harvest in Canada - Muskoka, Ontario
Ever since I saw the first cranberry fields twenty years ago, I have wanted to see how the bright red berries are harvested. I knew from stories and photos that water plays a role. Some New England footage showed cranberry farmers using large rakes to rake cranberries in flooded fields. Finally, they loaded the berries onto waiting trucks that would transport them to further processing. Now, on our trip to Muskoka, we had the opportunity to visit the only cranberry farm in Ontario. So I didn't have to think long. I didn't want to miss this chance to see the cranberry harvest in Canada. So I could finally satisfy my curiosity. We put Johnston's Cranberry Marsh in Bala in the Muskoka region on our itinerary.
Johnston's Cranberry Marsh in Bala
Johnston's Cranberry Farm is located just outside the small town of Bala im Muskoka Cottage Country. This region is wonderful for growing cranberries. This requires acidic peat soil and proximity to water. It is there in abundance. As we drove through Muskoka, the lakes rarely disappeared from view, and when we did, it was only when we were crossing a small land bridge between two of them. Sometimes this was so narrow that the water was even on both sides of the road. The area is also known for its silted up lakes. There, dense reeds grow on the edge of shallow pools. This reed rots on the bottom of the lake and slowly fills it up from below. This process is repeated until the entire lake disappears under a vegetative cover, creating a peat bog – ideal soil for cranberries to thrive on.
Cultivation and use of cranberries
The farming family Johnston from Bala recognized the potential and cleared several hectares of land. There they planted cranberries. At the same time, they created a network of channels that they can flood via valves if necessary. At the end of September - we were there on September 26th - it's harvest time at the Cranberry Farm. Our chance to see the cranberry harvest in Canada. Then you can watch what happens to the red berries. The farm offers guided tours. In the farm shop you can buy the freshly picked berries, but also cranberry wine or jams made from cranberries and other berries. Raw cranberries taste very bitter, so the wine and jams are combined with other fruits. However, raw berries are good for juicing, as an ingredient in cakes or pastries, and for sauces or purées. Like cranberries, they are used as an accompaniment to venison.
Cranberry harvest in Canada
When it comes to harvesting cranberries in Ontario, the approach is different from what I was used to from New England. Some of Ontario's berries are sold raw, unlike in the Cape Cod area where they are mostly used for juicing. For this reason, the berries have to be harvested more carefully than there, and so I came here without the expected pleasure of seeing the farmers trudge through the bright red water. The fields are also flooded with water to ensure a careful harvest.
Unlike in the south, however, a harvester is used here, which carefully plucks the berries from the bushes and collects them in a container. Unlike in the Cape Cod area, they do not swim in the fields, but are collected immediately. From the fields, the berries are transported to a trellis where they dry in the sun. They are then sorted according to size and color and packaged according to their intended use. The unharmed and deep red berries are sold in local supermarkets. Berries that have burst and those that are ripe but not yet developed their red color are used in winemaking or to make chutneys, jams or sauces.
And my farmers in the flooded ponds full of red cranberries? For that I have to go to New England ...
A visit to Johnston's Cranberry Farm is possible year-round: 1074 Cranberry Road, Bala, Ontario. P0C 1A0 Tel. 705-762-3203 Fax 705-762-3213.
Getting to the Cranberry Harvest in Canada
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Source Cranberry harvest in Canada: own research on site with the kind support of Tourism Ontario and the Canada Tourism Commission. However, our opinion remains our own.
Text cranberry harvest in Canada: © Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline