Many years ago my friend Ellen Chagnon walked with me in the sandpits behind Silver Lake in Bellingham, MA and said, “It feels like there should be cranberries…right here,” as she bent down and picked a wild cranberry. Thus began my love affair with wild cranberries. I have returned over the years many, many times to this spot, and others like it. I’ve found wild cranberry plants along the Pamet Trails at the Cape Cod National Seashore. We’ve enjoyed cranberry blossoms in spring at Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Maine.
But it has been to the trail right at my back yard that I have returned over and over. Proximity makes this natural, of course, but this proximity has also provided a glimpse of how a wild fruit can survive and often thrive. Of course, there have been years when I’ve found perhaps a total of ten berries in the entire patch. Other times the berries were so abundant the mice chewed the berries and used them for bedding, while still leaving quarts of berries for us to enjoy. And one year the fruit was filled with worms–ughh!
I ventured out on a fall morning in the bright sunshine recently with my friend Pam. Usually I haven’t been able to wait and start visiting the cranberries too soon. Underripe berries, extremely tart and not very red would remind me to be patient. Other years the fall rains begin and flood the berries, making them unreachable. This year I’ve had a lot happening, and rather than being too early or too late, it was the perfect time to visit.
Most wild cranberries are smaller than the berries you’ll find at the store. But “our” variety is larger than commercial berries. My neighbors who have lived in this area for years tell me there used to be commercial bogs back in the area where these wild berries grow. Perhaps this spot is a remnant of those abandoned bogs.
There is a cranberry bog and nature trail directly behind Patriot Place in Foxboro, MA, parking is next to the Bass Pro shop. And even more fun–it’s almost time to see the bog at harvest time.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.