Cranberries in March? Yes, it’s the best time to pick.

We went cranberrying in Northeast Creek in November, but did not get many. It was a banner year for cranberries, too. All my fellow foragers and gatherers were telling tales of over a dozen gallons, and easy picking. But I needed cranberries for the holidays, so gave up hunting, and went to Snugglemagic Farm pick-your-own in Ellsworth. We had a splendid day lazily picking cranberries and watching kids tearing around searching for the big pink and red and white berries like it was an Easter egg hunt. I was not quite satisfied though, I wanted the fun of the forage.

When we had been wading through the bog looking for cranberries, I told my husband about winter cranberries. He didn’t know what I meant, so I described the red, frost-nipped or frozen cranberries that are still on the branch in the dead of winter. We skated the creek in January and there they were. It was a different area of the creek than where we had looked in November, and cranberries were everywhere. Days are short in January though, so we grabbed a few, and said we’d be back.

It took until the end of March to find the time and right mood. I had never collected them this late, and did not know what we would find. I thought perhaps the critters would have picked the bushes clean. We passed under a dead tree with a bald eagle watching our progress, and when I remembered to look down, there they were, tiny splashes of red glowing from beneath the grass and leaves.

They were plentiful, easy to find, and like picking raspberries, it was pick some, eat some. That is not true in November, when cranberries have the texture of Styrofoam. We gathered more than we need, and I have three little baskets of the plump red gems to be given to whoever wants them. That is part of the fun of foraging—sharing the extra with friends who get as excited as we do about the wonderful edible gifts we are given.

The creek had open water in the center, loudly tumbling and singing “Spring.” A juvenile eagle came and circled overhead, and we saw muskrat trail in the mud. We were warm in the afternoon sun.

I may never gather in November again.

 

Plump red winter cranberries

Plump red winter cranberries

 

Gathering Cranberries  in January

Gathering Cranberries in January

 

 

Cranberries are everywhere

Cranberries are everywhere

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.