Charlie had his heart set on visiting a cranberry bog, and as New Jersey is the third largest producer of cranberries in the USA, it was easy to find one.
The first European colonists gave these berries the name cranberries, as theythought the flower, its stem and all its other parts looked like the neck, head and bill of a crane. They also used to be called bearberries as the colonists often saw bears feeding on them. As you can guess, cranberries are native to North American marshlands. Today cranberries are grown in bogs, which are wetlands that receive water only from rain or snow.
Native Americans had been eating cranberries for a long time, and they introduced the fruit to the starving English settlers. The Indians would pound up sun-dried meat (usually venison or buffalo) until it was almost powder-like. Then they would add about the same proportion of fat, and some dried fruit such as cranberries or blueberries. They would store this powder in rawhide bags, and it could last for as long as 10 years. It was their energy food, although they also used the berry as a dye or a poultice to draw poison from arrow wounds.
Getting back to the bears, Charlie actually met one and here it is with cranberry vines in the background. The bear population in New Jersey is on the rise, but hunting them is only allowed for 20 days a year, with each hunter allowed to bag only one. The state usually allows 5-day permits for archers in mid-October, than another 5 days for both archers and hunters with guns at the end of October, and then two 5-day segments for hunters with guns in December. These hunting days are very stressful for the bears, and Charlie learned that if not for the cranberries, most New Jersey bears would move to the neighboring state of Delaware, where bear hunting is not permitted. In the 1700s, cranberries were so valued by colonists that picking them before they were ripe was punishable by a fine. Bears have never picked any before they were ripe.
Aside from the bears, human Americans eat a lot of sweet and sour cranberry sauce or relish and drink a lot of cranberry juice. Cranberry sauce or relish are a lot like chutney and can be
chunky or smooth; it is usually eaten with roasted meat. When I was growing up in New Jersey, it was on our dinner table almost every night.
Cranberry juice is becoming popular in Brazil, both for its heath benefits (it is excellent for avoiding or relieving urinary tract infections) and for cocktails such as cranberry margaritas or vodka & cranberry juice cocktails. Nowadays we can buy craisins in most good Brazilian supermarkets, which can be used in the same way we use raisins.
There are about 700 cranberry farms in New Jersey, most of which have been in operation for over 100 years. Cranberries are one of only 3 fruits that are native to North America. They are harvested in the fall, just before the first frost, so we didn’t get to see the process. But Charlie and I did learn that some are “wet harvested” which means that the bog in which they are grown is flooded, which loosens the berries from the vines, and that makes the ripe berries float to the top. Quality berries have four little air chambers inside them, which makes them float. It also makes them bounce, which is a sign of a quality berry. The wet harvested cranberries are used to make juices or sauces. After the bogs are flooded, mechanical threshers stir the water like an enormous electric mixer in order to separate the fruit from the plant. People who work with these threshers call them “egg beaters”. As soon as the berries are floating, employees enter the bogs and push the berries to a place where a pump is located. From there, the cranberries are pumped to a small collector station where they are cleaned and loaded onto a truck, which takes them away to be processed into juice, dried fruit or some other interesting way to sell them.
The other harvest method is to dry harvest the fruit, and that means they are combed off the vine mechanically, and then go straight to supermarkets so we can make homemade cranberry sauce or smoothies.
FYI is an acronym, and an acronym is a word formed by combining the first letters of each word of a name, such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that is frequently seen in the news. Another one you probably know is AIDS, which is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sometimes acronyms are pronounced as a word as in NATO and AIDS, and sometimes the letters are pronounced individually, such as FYI (for your information). And most of the time they are not even pronounced, as they are used mostly in social media, business communication and Internet. But we do hear CNN (Cable News Network) reporters saying ASAP frequently, which means As Soon As Possible and is hard to pronounce.
Sometimes acronyms become words, such as the word scuba. Everybody knows that word, but few know it started out as an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Another acronym that became a word is laser, which began as the acronym Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Most of us are very pleased that these two words became acronyms.
For now, try to incorporate FYI and ASAP into your daily communications, and don’t spend too much time remembering what AIDS and LASER and SCUBA really mean. But you should be able to recognize NATO as it has become a big issue in North America and Europe.
Here are six business acronyms that you should know if you are a businessperson, and maybe aspire to if you are in middle management. Which one would be the lowest stress and the highest salary?