Pumpkins and Cranberries
Traditional Thanksgiving dinner would
not be complete without pumpkins and cranberries, two major horticultural
products of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Ninety percent of the pumpkins produced in the United States are
grown in a 60 to 90 mile radius of Peoria, Illinois. The vast majority
of pumpkin is processed into canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie mix
that we buy at the supermarket.
Pumpkins and winter squash are so closely related that they are
often grouped together botanically. These vine crops grow best in
warm well-drained soils. Farmers contract yearly with the pumpkin
processing companies for the crop. Processing pumpkins dont
look like the typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin. They are about the
size and shape of a watermelon with a pale creamy orange shell.
The interior flesh is the deep orange we expect in canned pumpkin.
Harvest begins in middle August and continues through November.
Harvesting is a two step process. First the pumpkins are pushed
into rows with a machine that works like a modified snowplow. Then
a mechanical harvester picks up the fruit and throws it into the
top of a semi-tractor trainer. Amazingly the pumpkins rarely break.
At the processing plant top quality pumpkins are selected as future
seed stock. The rest are washed, mashed, and cooked to produce the
main ingredient for our holiday deserts.
The cranberry is a native North American fruit cultivated in the
United States and Canada. The principal areas of production are
Massachusetts on Cape Cod, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington
and Nova Scotia. Wisconsin is the second largest producer of cranberries,
but their fruits are not as bright red as Massachusettss berries.
Cranberries grow wild on acid-peat soils, usually underlain by
sand, with clay hardpan underneath. These areas frequently flood
in winter. In addition to wild cranberries, native plants in these
sites are sphagnum moss, leatherleaf, sheep laurel, red maple and
The development of a cranberry field, or bog, as it is often called,
is very expensive. Much capital, knowledge, and experience are required
to construct and bring a field to bearing age. Besides specialized
soil requirements, an adequate water supply is necessary for flooding
the fields at intervals to control insects and to protect the plants
In autumn the bogs are flooded for harvest. Cranberry scoops rake
the berries from the vines along with pieces of vines and leaves.
The floating berries are gathered from the water for sorting. If
you go north for the colors in autumn, you might want to visit the
Wisconsin Rapids area to see the cranberry harvest.
The berries are cleaned by putting them through a separator to
blow off the chaff, then moved along a belt where they are hand-sorted
by workers who remove defective berries.
The cranberry growers are well organized and market the crop cooperatively.
Nearly half of the crop is processed.
When you sit down to this years Thanksgiving feast you might
want to remember the good things Illinois and Wisconsin producers
added to your meal.
October - November 2000: Recycling
Leaves in the Yard | Fall Garden Wrap-Up
Checklist | Preparing Lawns for Winter
| Pumpkins and Cranberries �