Can a cranberry be too red?

Brent McCown’s Hy-Red cranberry is getting rave reviews from Wisconsin growers. Although McCown developed the variety several years ago, this is the first season that it has really been put through the paces in large-scale commercial production.

“These early ripening cultivars are very successful, with huge yields this year. This is the first time we’ve had a large bed grown and harvested under commercial conditions, because it takes three to five years to develop a significant bed.”

Hy-Red was developed to produce a redder cranberry, which at the time brought growers a premium price. The premium is no longer available because sweetened dried cranberries — fastest-growing cranberry product — is made with paler fruit. “When you dry down a deep red cranberry, it looks black,” McCown explains. “That’s not a good marketing attribute.”

But Hy-Red has attributes other than color that make it a hit with growers. In addition to excellent yields, growers like the fact that the variety can be harvested earlier in the fall.

“In developing this cultivar, we selected for early flowering, which means a longer season and better color. Now the industry is getting interested earlier harvest. (Because they flower earlier) these cranberries reach adequate color and maturity in mid-September. Growers like that because it lets them make more efficient use of their labor,” he explains.