Growing Gratitude – and Cranberries

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, I paused to wonder just where some of those traditional foods hail from, how they’re grown, what it takes to get them from farm to table to MY BELLY.  And realized I often have no idea where the food I’m eating comes from.

I housesit for friends who posted a small “mindfulness reminder” image on their refrigerator. It reminds you to begin with an empty plate, recognizing it will be filled with precious food. Some of the next steps include contemplating your food: This plate of food, so fragrant and appetizing, also contains much suffering. Then, beginning to eat: With the first taste, I promise to offer joy. With the second, I promise to help relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others’ joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of non-attachment and equanimity. (From Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)

Such basic steps slow you down, and remind you that food comes from a specific place and often a specific someone, and that it nourishes both body AND soul, especially on a day like Thanksgiving, set aside to gather with loved ones. An added bonus is the extra enjoyment and savoring of the taste of your food, as this New York Times piece reminds us.

The cranberry is one of the three native fruits to North America, introduced to the European settlers by the Native Americans. According to, the name was derived from the similarity of the spring blossoms to a Sandhill crane. Mariners carried the berries on board to prevent scurvy on their sea voyages.

Does your scurvy-free Thanksgiving table feature fresh, chunky cranberries, or do they still jiggle slightly, showing the rings of the can, having just slithered out onto the plate? Though, according to The Farmer’s Almanac, cranberries “favor acidic soil …. [and] also like sand, which is why they call places like Cape Cod, Massachusetts, home,” it is possible to grow your own!  A ground-cover plant, a small, personal crop of cranberries doesn’t require the bogs often seen for mass production, but they do like a cool climate. And they’re rarely grown from seed, so if you’re not one to wait long, choose a 3-year-old cutting that will yield a crop right away. Check out for tips on replacing your soil with the kind cranberries will thrive in.

Even if you don’t choose to plant your own, that’s no reason not to know where it hailed from. You don’t have to get as detailed as the “Portlandia” chicken episode and visit your nearby bog, but, in accordance with a day of giving thanks, and honoring the journey your food takes to your table, it’s not a bad thing to know how your cranberry grows.

For today, meet Cranberry Bob. Modern Farmer interviewed this cranberry farmer from Vermont, to learn more about Bob’s bogs. A family business, his wife and three kids all help pack the berries, and they deliver them around the state, exhausting themselves by the end of the holiday season, having produced over 20,000 pounds of cranberries. (The story features a recipe for a Winter Pudding with Caramalized Cranberries that you might want to add to your holiday menu.)

What’s your favorite way to prepare cranberries?  Do you practice mindfulness at meals?  Have you noticed a difference in dining when you do?  Leave us a note here, or on Twitter – @RebeccaSnavely and @TheCityFarm.

Happy Thanksgiving!


(Photo: Modern Farmer)