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Growing Highbush Cranberries in the PNW  RSS feed

 
Posts: 176
Location: Western Washington
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I've read a bit about highbush cranberries and I'd really like to try growing them here in western Washington. I'd love to hear from people about what their experiences have been with them, especially in the Pacific Northwest. I'm especially wondering about:
Are the much like real cranberries when you use them in the kitchen?
Does anyone know if their nutritional profile is similar to real cranberries?
Any advice on growing them?

Thanks!
 
pollinator
Posts: 292
Location: Maine, zone 5
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Hi James.  I have them growing on my property and I'm still trying to figure out how best to use them.  They taste nothing like real cranberries to me.  I bought some highbush cranberry jelly from Sam Thayer and it was good, although not reminiscent of cranberry at all.  They are beautiful bushes and I'll keep playing with the fruit until I've found good recipes.  If anyone has a recipe they like for them please post!
 
James Landreth
Posts: 176
Location: Western Washington
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Thank you! That's really good to know. A lot of articles on the internet say that they're nearly the same as real cranberries, which I find hard to believe since the plants are so different. Where did you get your plants, and how long did they take to produce?
 
Greg Martin
pollinator
Posts: 292
Location: Maine, zone 5
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My plants are growing wild.  There're relatively common here.  Perhaps some of the named varieties are better.  It's also possible that ours might be V. opulus rather than V. trilobum, which are very closely related if not the same species.  Opulus, brought over from Europe, supposedly tastes worse.  Wikipedia says "The Inupiat mix the berries with rosehips and Ribes triste and boil them into a syrup."  I'll give that a shot and see how it goes.  Wikipedia also says they taste similar to cranberries....nope!  I remember one site saying they taste more like gym socks.  That's probably too harsh.  My guess is that edibility of this one depends on knowledge of when to pick and how to use.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Northern Minnesota
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I have been lurking in Permies for a while, but wanted to say a couple of things here. First, I have highbush cranberries. I don't live in the same area as you do, though.

Highbush cranberries are similar in some ways to actual cranberries, but it's pretty limited in that regard. They're softer and jucier,  more so than the dry, hollowish insides of a standard cranberry. I think they taste more like cranberry juice than like cranberries themselves.

I've never liked them off the bush, but I do like them as juice and jelly. They're sour and have a slight bitterness, but not unpalatable. I may have a really good kind, though, as I understand that some are better than others.

In all, I find them good for processing. If I made wine they would be one of the first things I tried. They make good juice, especially if you blend it with other stuff. It makes good jelly. Birds like them. I think they're quite good for you.

Finally, for growing them, they like icky ground. Mine grow at the edges of a literal bog, so I would guess they like wet, acidic soil. Its the only place they grow on my land, so that would be what I recommend. Good luck, I hope this was at least slightly helpful!
 
James Landreth
Posts: 176
Location: Western Washington
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Welcome to permies then!

That's great! Thank you! It's good to know about them growing near a bog, because my impression was that they grew almost like blueberries, needing good drainage and such. My property has a high water table in the winter, so I might try planting some directly in the ground. I know this is a difficult question, but if I wanted to have enough to make a fair amount of juice and jelly for myself and sharing with family, how many bushes do you think I would plant?
 
Dem Krebs
Posts: 8
Location: Northern Minnesota
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It depends on what you have room for. I would start out with a few bushes and make sure I like them first. They do require multiple plants for fruit set. I have five bushes that stand about 10 feet tall. Well, there's more than that but 5 are easy to get to and provide enough fruit for me.

They have a lot of berries. From the 5 bushes I pick, I can easily get a 5 gallon bucket from them. From what little I do for them, that's pretty good. I don't net them or even cleanly pick them. They produce berries in clusters, so you can get heavy yields from them.

I was curious about it, so some quick googling states that at maturity, you can get 20 pounds or more per bush. That seems a bit high, but I've also never weighed my harvests. I hope that helps. I'd say 3 for good fruit set, and add to it if you really really like them. I don't think it takes very long for them to fruit, especially if you're buying bushes and not seeds or seedlings. Mine were here and producing when I got here, so I don't know for sure.
 
Posts: 16
Location: West-central Pennsylvania
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West central PA, zone 5 here. I bought three starts from a local nursery 4 years ago. The first year they popped right up to about 3' and were looking good. The second spring they got hit with caterpillars, hard. One died even after I hit them with Seven. I'd tried a couple of natural sprays first with no luck. Early next spring, as it warmed up, I hit them with an oil treatment. That finally cured the caterpillar problem. Now, 4 years later, The remaining two are about 9' tall, about 6' wide at the spread, multiple stems that are multiplying slowly ... picture a Lilac bush. This is the first year I'll get anything off them, they've flowered very well and the berry clusters are forming. I have them in a moist area mixed with Elderberry. I'm thinking about trying some following Elderberry recipes.
We had them on the farm when I was a kid and mom never did anything with them. We had a circus every fall though! As the berries rotted after frosts, Cedar Wax Wings migrated through and hit them hard. Have you ever seen a flock of drunk Cedar Wax Wings? !!!
My main reasons for getting them were for the birds, I might get some more Elderberries with them nearby, and I want to try making wine with them: some mixed with Sunchoke flowers and some more mixed with some water from cooked roots. Its all excremental ... I mean experimental at this point!
 
Greg Martin
pollinator
Posts: 292
Location: Maine, zone 5
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Deb, at what stage do you pick your berries?  Do you let them fully ripen or pick when just colored up and still firm?  Maybe different stages for different uses?  I have more experimenting to do.
 
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