The distinguished history of the cranberry goes back for ages. In olden times among the native peoples, they were sought after as much for medical purposes as for food eaten during ceremonies. The Iroquois called them "atoca" and they are still sometimes referred to by this name in Quebec.
Henry Hall, a veteran of the American Revolution, was the first to plant and cultivate a field of cranberries commercially in 1816. Today, cranberries are cultivated over more than 58,000 acres (23,470 hectares) throughout Canada, the northern U.S. and Chile.
Up until the 1960s, cranberries were harvested by hand in a slow and back-breaking process. At some point it became apparent that the hollow alveoles inside the fruit could be put to good use by growers. It was discovered that, with its waterproof skin and empty chambers inside, the cranberry could actually float. From that time on producers took to flooding their fields to facilitate harvesting.
Cranberry shrubs start to bud as of April and on through mid-June. Flowering occurs in summer followed by fruiting in the fall. Cool nights and sunny days promote the ripening of fruit. In October the berries reach their full, mature size, flavour and colour.
The harvest process requires the entire field to be flooded. Next, with the help of harvesting machines mounted with rollers, the shrubs are gently shaken to detach the fruit. Once separated from the stems, the cranberries float, and depending on the wind direction, they all end up in one end or the other of the basin. They are then harvested using pumps and shipped by truck to the processing facility. There they are sorted, washed, transformed and packed. Once the harvest is complete, the water is redirected to another field ready for harvest or into a reservoir for future use.