The cranberry is one of only three commercially-grown fruits that are native to North America and around Metro Vancouver you can find these bright, tart, ruby red beads growing in Richmond and along the Fraser River in Langley. Uniquely “wet harvested” in water-filled bogs, cranberries paint the landscape around this time of year and are a delicious, nutritious treat, complimenting dishes and traditional Thanksgiving dinners.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, cranberries are BC’s largest berry crop, with 82 million pounds of fruit produced in 2009. This accounts for up to approximately 12 percent of cranberry production in North America. Here’s a quick guide to cranberries and how to enjoy them around Metro Vancouver:
Of all the cranberries harvested in Canada every year, about 60% are grown for Massachusetts-based Ocean Spray, to which most BC cranberry growers belong as a cooperative — as a result 90% of BC cranberries are shipped to the USA.
Approximately 50% of BC’s crop is used to make sweetened dried cranberries, 40% is made into juice, 9% is sold whole frozen and 1% is sold fresh, according to the Government of BC.
Richmond is the largest producer of cranberries in Canada and Lulu Island Cranberries, established in 1992, is one of a number of Richmond farms that produces cranberries for Ocean Spray. Many of the hardworking family farms in the co-op have been around for decades.
Where to Buy Cranberries
The BC Cranberry Marketing Comission has a list of cranberry producers/sellers online that include just under 10 local farms in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Langley, and Richmond.
On that list you’ll find Maybog Farms Ltd, operated by the May family who received the “Minister’s Award of Excellence” from the Government of BC in 2008 for their contribution to the province’s farming industry as a long-established cranberry farming family.
In October of 2012 the May family opened The Fowl Farmer with a farm-gate market selling fresh and frozen free run chicken, which is situated along a cranberry bog. They are a part of the Ocean Spray co-op but also have a very small retail offering where you can visit and purchase fresh or frozen cranberries:
When you come to visit the market you might notice the cranberries that surround our farm. Lulu Island Cranberries was established in 1992 and produces cranberries for Ocean Spray. In late October it is worth your time to come out and watch the harvest. Don’t forget your camera! Oh and by the way, when you are at the market make sure to also pick up a bag of our cranberries, whether you are making cranberry sauce or baking with them you will notice quite a difference. [The Fowl Farmer]
The Fowl Farmer is located at 15539 Cambie Rd in Richmond, BC and they are open seven days a week. The cranberry harvest season runs September through October.
In Langley, stop by The Fort Wine Co for berry wines (with 100% BC-grown fruit) and frozen cranberry purchases. Their Mighty Fraser Cranberry Wine is their flagship wine, first stocked on their shelves 10 years ago. They are located at 26151 84th Avenue just east of Fort Langley Village and they have a tasting bar, retail store, and bistro.
Fort Langley Cranberry Festival
The 18th annual Fort Langley Cranberry Festival takes place on Saturday, October 12, 2013 around the village of Fort Langley.
Traditionally, cranberries were hot trading commodities at Fort Langley (aka the Birthplace of BC) as local First Nations used them for food, dyes, and medicine. They would trade cranberries for HBC blankets, beads, and other items. In fact in 1858, cranberries were actually worth more than salmon.
You can celebrate the history of the cranberry at the festival starting at 10:00am with a pancake breakfast (earlier at 8:30am) followed by an entire day of family-friendly activities. There will be contest giveaways, live music and entertainment on the main stage, cooking demos, fashions shows, and more. There will also be over 70 market vendors, selling jewelry, specialty candy, organic coffee, hand-made crafts, and other goods until 4:00pm.