Going crazy for cranberries

December 17, 1997|By Diane Rozas | Diane Rozas,Eating Well

The cranberry's future has never looked rosier. Not only has its refreshing taste and proven health benefits (such as fighting urinary-tract infections) made it one of America's most popular juice drinks, but the cranberry is making a splash on the fashion scene as well. Cranberry is the hot color this season, and decorators are recommending a variety of shades for everything from upholstery fabrics to wall paint.

But it's more than just new hues. The berry's tangy flavor is popping up all over. Cranberry Newtons and cranberry applesauce battle traditional counterparts for shelf space. Craisins are an alternative (although a pricey alternative) to plain old raisins and other dried fruits.

The question is, will today's cranberry craze throw us into a cranberry crisis tomorrow? Not if farmers with an eye toward greater profit have anything to say about it.

To meet the high demand, cranberry growers in the Ocean Spray organization (which controls about 75 percent of all berries grown in the United States) and other farmers are expanding bog lands in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin and a few other states with the proper growing conditions. Betting on a future of profitable harvests, some farmers are converting from cows to cranberries at the cost of about $3 million per 100 acres. But since the maturation period for newly-planted vines is five years, the payoff is not immediate.

So keep an extra bag or two of the trendy berries in the freezer or stash a can of sauce in the back of the pantry -- because, as farmers are learning, you can never have enough cranberries.

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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