National Eat-A-Cranberry Day

Cranberry vine (Vaccinium microcarpum) (photo by Keith Weller)

Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving, so why not a day about that most American of fruits, the cranberry? According to all the nonsensical “national day” calendars on the Internet, November 23 is that day. I can’t find anyone who claims to have started eat-a-cranberry day or any history about it, so let’s just give the day to cranberries without any official endorsement.

And cranberries deserve a day. The cranberry is one special little fruit, full of all the good things nutritionists tell us to seek in our food. It is also all-American, endemic to the U.S. According to the Cranberry Marketing Association, about 1100 family farms grow cranberries, with Wisconsin and Massachusetts in first and second place for most grown. Cranberry farms go back generations, partially, I suppose, because the type of cultivation—old vines growing in reclaimed bogs and marshes—provides large barriers to entry into the business.

And cranberries deserve a day around this time of year, because, as we all know, the special dinners in this season aren’t complete without cranberries. Cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, cranberries in the salad, cranberry punch, cranberry-scented candles.

What most don’t know, however, is that one of the first “recalls” of food for pesticide contamination involved cranberries–the “Great Cranberry Scare of 1959.” A perfect cranberry storm left the nation with empty bowls where the cranberry sauce should have been.

The first part of the perfect storm came in the mid-1950s, when cranberry growers began to use a new chemical, aminotriazole, to control weeds in their cranberry bogs. FDA approval of the herbicide required that it be applied only after the fall cranberry harvest so that none of the chemical, a known carcinogen, would contaminate the berries themselves. Part two was a change to federal food-safety legislation in 1958 (the Delaney Clause) that prohibited sale of foods containing cancer-causing substances (there were only a few known at the time). Part three was a series of tests of that showed aminotriazole contamination in some lots of cranberries from Washington and Oregon, in November. Secretary of the (then) Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Arthur Fleming, felt he had no choice but to warn the public not to eat cranberries.

Read More

This Month in Conservation

November 1
Ansel Adams Shoots “Moonrise” (1941)
November 2
National Bison Day
November 3
William Cullen Bryant Born (1794)
November 4
UNESCO Created (1946)
November 5
Ethelwynn Trewavas Born (1900)
November 6
International Day to Protect the Environment during War
November 7
Costa Rica Constitution Enacted (1949)
November 8
World Town Planning Day
November 9
First Live Panda Leaves China (1936)
November 10
Guinness Book of World Records Born (1951)
November 11
Leonardo DiCaprio Born (1974)
November 12
Salim Ali Born (1896)
November 13
Amory Lovins Born (1947)
November 14
US Crushes Elephant Ivory (2013)
November 15
America Recycles Day
November 16
Global Climate Change Research Act Passed (1990)
November 17
David Livingstone Arrives at Victoria Falls (1855)
November 18
Asa Gray, Father of American Botany, Born (1810)
November 19
World Toilet Day
November 20
John Merle Coulter, Pioneering Botanist, Born (1851)
November 21
Lava Beds National Monument Created (1925)
November 22
Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” Premiered (1931)
November 23
National Eat-A-Cranberry Day
November 24
“On the Origin of Species” Published (1859)
November 25
Nikolai Vavilov, Pioneering Russian Agronomist, Born (1887)
November 26
Anna Maurizio, Swiss Bee Expert, Born (1900)
November 27
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Born (1955)
November 28
Elsie Quarterman, Plant Ecologist, Born (1910)
November 29
U.S. Rations Coffee (1942)
November 30
Mark Twain, American Humorist, Born (1835)
January February March April May June July August September October November December