Friday, September 19, 2014

Provincetown's Cranberry Vote of 1773

Cranberries are ripening right now in the low-lying spots in Provincetown's forests and dunes.
Photo by Charles Armstrong, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Cranberries grow very well in the low-lying spots in Provincetown's forested areas, and even in the very low spots out in the dunes, and anywhere the water might pool up a bit after the rainfall. When the ground can't absorb all the water after a rainstorm, which happens in these very low spots where the groundwater is just below the surface, the area can remain under water for a time. As the ground slowly soaks up the water, it's likely, at least for a little while, to stay a little soggy, or spongy, or boggy, if you will, hence the name cranberry bog.
As the ground water recedes, the cranberries can begin to grow, on a sturdy little vine that can produce cranberries for more than 100 years. The berries get their start with a small, pale pink blossom shaped a bit like the head of a crane. The early settlers were calling it crane berry, and that's how the cranberry got its name.
In his 1890 book Provincetown or Odds and Ends From the Tip End, Herman A. Jennings provides us with this historic tidbit he dug up "from old town records," apparently from the 1773 Town Meeting:

I'm not sure what effect the unusually cool, dry weather of this summer might have on the cranberries this year, but you can usually find them getting ripe enough to pick by this time. If you go out to pick cranberries, don't confuse them with bearberry, which looks a little similar, and is harmless in small quantities, but it's not good for humans in large amounts. Here's a link to help you find wild cranberries, from a great blog I found, called The 3 Foragers, written by a family who harvests and eats a good bit of their food from wild sources. And if you go out after cranberries, be sure to watch for the poison ivy that is sometimes found nearby.

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