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Before They End Up On Your Plate, Canned Cranberries Take Quite A Journey

By Carol Erickson

CHATSWORTH, N.J., (CBS) – A Thanksgiving staple.

But before they end up on your plate, those canned cranberries take quite a journey.

You may not realize it, but most get their start right here in our area.

It's not easy getting a cranberry in a can.  Listen to their life story.  They start as a seed in a remote nursery, nestled in a little test tube with code numbers for their parents -- numbers chosen by their berry daddy.  There he is now, cranberry researcher Nick Vorsa heading into the biggest genetic depository of cranberries in the world -- the 600-acre Rutgers Marucci Center in Chatsworth N.J. He runs the place.

"Makes me the breeder that tries to combine traits of one parent with traits of another parent," Vorsa said.

It's in these Pine Barrens research labs that Dr. Vorsa and staff choose which plant to mate with which plant through hand pollinating.

That's what's going on here, to create a hybrid offspring seed for a very specific purpose.

"The most recent varieties we've release through breeding process appear to have higher heat tolerance and are more adapted to our current climate," Vorsa said.

Since cranberry varieties taste like other cranberries, what that breeding is after is a cranberry strain that can take the strain of outdoor life. Only one in 10,000 vines planted will end up successful. And this, after six years of Rutgers field testing in plots shaped, coincidentally, like dining room tables, where generations meet for Thanksgiving.

(Erickson:) "Your work is at tables where families are fighting."

(Vorsa:) "Well I don't know about the fighting, I hope it's not bringing them to fight."

When they they ought to take a second to toast the cranberry matchmaker, who can teach the birds and the bees a thing or two.

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