When you think of fall in New Jersey, what springs to mind first? If you’re not thinking about cranberry bogs full of ripe, tart berries, keep reading. By the end of this article, you’ll be grabbing your hiking shoes, rounding up the family, arming yourself with water bottles and trail snacks, and heading out to hike in one of Jersey’s bog-hosting parks.
Here are some crimson-hued fruit facts you need to know:
The Garden State includes cranberry bogs. Lots of them.
New Jersey is the third largest producer of cranberries in the United States. If you’re keeping score, the US is the largest cranberry producer in the world. The fruit is a Pine Barren native and as such, the primary growing areas within the state are Burlington, Atlantic, and Ocean Counties.
Fall is for cranberries.
Pumpkin spice-everything and crisp apples may get all the autumn culinary attention, but fall is cranberry time. The season runs from mid-September to mid-November with the peak of the season falling in October.
They grow near water, but not in it.
Often images of cranberries taken this time of year show them floating in a bog full for water. This leads some to believe they grow in such environments. Not exactly. Cranberries do grow in wetlands – a marshy, transitional space between water and dry land. The familiar photos are taken during wet harvesting. Because the fruit contains unique air pockets at its core, they will float in water. When it’s time to harvest, the wetland bogs can be flooded and the fruits can be skimmed from the top.
There’s more to cranberries than a Thanksgiving side.
Cranberries floating in flooded bog, framed by blue skies and autumn trees make for a gorgeous photo. You’ll find such photo ops in several of NJ’s parks such as Ocean County’s Cloverdale Farm County Park in Barnegat, Whitesbog (within the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest) in Browns Mills, and Double Trouble State Park in Bayville. You’ll also find lots of cranberry-themed baked goods, crafts and fun at Cranberry Festivals in NJ. Chatsworth has been hosting such an annual event in October for over 30 years!
Cranberries have a place in your kitchen.
From classic cranberry sauce to cranberry-walnut bread, you’ll find no shortage of recipes for Jersey’s fall crop. We’ve got one more for you to consider. Drop a handful of fresh, ripe cranberries in a pitcher. Cut one orange into thin slices and add those to your cranberries. Fill the pitcher with fresh spring water and let the fruit infuse it with flavor overnight. For a different twist, try infusing your water with cranberries and mint leaves. We think you’ll love either combination!
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