What Identifies a Cranberry as Ripe

What Identifies A Cranberry As Ripe?

Wouldn’t you love to know what identifies a cranberry as ripe instead of trying your luck with immature berries that are not sweet at all?

Cranberries grow like a small vine lying low to the ground. The berries are oval in shape, deep red when ripe, and whitish-green when unripe. The berries are easy to identify from other berries. The best thing about these berries is they are free from the use of pesticides.

Cranberries begin ripening in September! But it is best to wait till late October or November to harvest them. As the season progresses, they sweeten and become more edible. If they get hit with a frost and have already turned red, that’s maximum sweetness.

Let See What Identifies a Cranberry as Ripe

To understand what identifies a cranberry as ripe, there are 3 main factors to consider – the feel, smell, and color. It should be crimson red in color, should smell very subtle, and should feel supple to the touch.

Let See What Identifies a Cranberry as Ripe


Ripe cranberries are crimson red to slightly maroon. A green cranberry means it is immature or not well grown. Dark purple color means the cranberries are overripe. Color alone is not the only factor that determines the ripeness of these berries. Growing conditions and harvesting time affects the berries’ coloration. The color of the cranberries comes from a pigment known as anthocyanin. This pigment develops in the cranberry skin when exposed to cold or heat. In most cases, you will always see half white, half red cranberries. This happens because the half white side stayed cooled and never developed the red color. You can turn the white cranberries red by popping them in the freezer and watch the color change.


Ripe and unripe cranberries smell almost nothing. Overripe cranberries have a distinctive fruiter and sweeter smell. Unripe and ripe cranberries have a waxy skin thicker than a red apple’s skin. The smell does not pass through the skin because it is thicker. When the cranberry starts to spoil, the cell walls start to break down and becomes goopy and soft. The soft-skinned overripe cranberries are easily damaged. So always buy the ones that have a subtle smell so that it ripens more at home.


Use the bounce test to tell if a cranberry is ripe or not. Drop the cranberry on a hard surface like a cutting board and see if it bounces. Ripe cranberries are supple and not firm or soft. Bounce a few cranberries to determine if they are ripe or not. Use the ripe one as a guide and compare it with the feel of the others. The sound of ripe cranberries comes from the bounce test- the berry should not plop or splat. Ripe cranberries bounce and make a noticeable ‘bong’ sound.

Can Cranberries Ripen After Picking?

What identifies a cranberry as ripe is the ability to bounce when ripe.  Always aim at picking good ripe cranberries also known as bounceberries. This is due to their ability to bounce when testing for ripeness. Cranberries do not ripen after harvest! That’s why you should only pick the shiny, bright red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should not be picked.

FLORA GUARD –  Professional Tree and Branch Garden Pruner

Read about How to Prune a Lemon Tree

How Do you Use Cranberries?

Cranberries can be used in various ways. They include:

  • Freeze them as whole berries for eating
  • Make juices or sauces and can them
  • Roast the cranberries diced with winter squash and add them to savory rice, quinoa dish or toss a few into an apple pie
  • Make cranberry cheese ice cream

Are Unripe Cranberries Edible?

Yes, you can eat unripe cranberries as long as they do not rock solid or green. You can eat both ripe and unripe cranberries but immature ones are a different story. In a large batch of harvested cranberries, some are going to be ripe while others unripe. If they are green in color or rock hard, they are not good for eating.

When using cranberries in recipes, it is hard to tell the difference between ripe and unripe especially when sugar is added.

How To Pick Cranberries

The night before the berries are harvested, it is important to flood the bog up to 18 inches of water. Farmers use water reels called ‘eggbeaters’ to churn the water and loosen the cranberries from the vine. Each berry has a tiny pocket of air that allows it to float in the water. Any berry that sinks should not be eaten, rather thrown away.


Cranberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. They are growing more familiar to both home cooks and restaurant chefs. The best cranberries are firm to spongy and should not sink in water. Head out and get your berries today.