Last week I took Connor and Rowan up Indian River to do a little ibutton maintenance. Although the ground had frost on it, the air was calm and the sun was high enough to provide some warmth, so I decided to take a break and relax a little before heading back. While selecting a nice spot, I noticed some Bog Cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) and picked a couple to eat and share with Connor and Rowan.
Rowan thought the berries were too sour, but for some reason she decided to pick more berries anyway. Connor and I picked a few more to eat before I realize there were probably enough berries to make it worth bagging them to take home. All three of us picked for a while, and we filled up about half of a sandwich bag, before I decided to stop and rest. I found a place to sit and nap/relax, while the kids continued to pick. I did not really expect them to keep picking for so long, but they were pretty into it, and we ended up taking home nearly enough to fill a quart-sized bag, which we plan to use for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
Bog Cranberries and Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are fairly common in most muskegs and Lingonberries can also be found in other open habitats. The berries have a similar appearance and taste, so they are often gathered together. Lingonberry plants are small upright leafy shrubs (hence the other common name – Low Bush Cranberry) while Bog Cranberry tends to grow as inconspicuous trailing plants with small leathery leaves (see photo at the top). Lingonberries often grow in patches with little clumps of berries on each plant (at least during a productive year). Bog Cranberries seem to grow primarily as single berries (though occasionally a couple will grow off the same stem) with a fairly dispersed distribution. As a result, during a good year, Lingonberries are much easier to pick quickly. Although there were many Lingonberry plants, we only found a few berries, so the vast majority of what we picked were Bog Cranberries. Our ‘hot spots’ consisted maybe of a couple dozen berries in a 1-2 sq. ft. patch of muskeg, so it was somewhat slow going, but an enjoyable way to spend a pleasant fall afternoon.