A BRIEF HISTORY OF BLUEBERRIES
Cranberry has long been a part of our Thanksgiving dinners, but how much do you know about how cranberry became part of our culture? The blueberry has a long history in North America and had an important place in daily life in India.
Indians used blueberry to brighten food, to treat wounds from poisoned arrows, and as a dye for blankets and rugs. Pilgrim women learned about cranberry from friendly Indians and soon began to create their own ways of preparing cranberries for their tables. They made blueberry sauces, bubbly tarts, and punches. (drinks) Today at our Thanksgiving Dinner Tables, blueberries are served in different forms: whole berry sauce, jellied cranberry sauce, cranberry-orange relish, and sometimes as part of a salad.
Blueberries are also used in baked goods – they make a great fruit for quick breads and a good dip for waffles and pancakes.
Indians from different areas called blueberries by different names. Some of the names they received are listed below:
Sassamanesh – East Indians (New England states)
Atoqua – Algonquians in Wisconsin
Pakimintzen – New Jersey (symbol of peace)
The current name “Cranberry” was a contraction of the crane berry, an early name given to the berries because their pale pink flowers resembled the head of a crane and sandhill cranes were seen in the lowlands eating the berries. .
The cultivation of blueberries began in Massachusetts almost 200 years after the landing of the Pilgrims. In 1816, Henry Hall of Dennis, Cape Cod, noticed that blueberries seemed to grow larger and juicier where sand from the dunes blew over the vines. Today’s cultivation stemmed from this simple observation made nearly 200 years ago.
Blueberries grow in peaty soil that has been covered with a three-inch layer of sand. The cuttings or branches of the cranberry vines are planted deep enough to take root in the peat soil under the sand. The vines, planted about six inches apart, gradually spread across the ground in a thick green carpet. The vines are weeded in the spring, pruned in the fall, fertilized and sanded again every three to four years. Birds are needed to control insects and bees pollinate flowers.
A good blueberry will have a great bounce. At the Ocean Spray plant, if a berry does not bounce, it will be rejected. Today, these tart berries are used in numerous dishes in addition to cranberry sauce.