It may be a side dish at your Thanksgiving feast, but Rutgers University researchers have been working for a long time to develop the ideal cranberry for that sauce.

Rutgers professor Nicholi Vorsa, director of the Phillip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension in Chatsworth, says the half-dozen cranberry varieties that they are distributing around the country and around the world have been 30 years in the making.

"A hardier cranberry that resists fruit rot and heat stress," he says this year's New Jersey cranberry crop is one of the best crops that we have ever had.

Vorsa says his research has made hundreds of crosses between various varieties of cranberries, "and we have evaluated thousands and thousands of progeny from these crosses. And from those several decades of work, we have released six varieties that we think have better adaptation and yield potential and attributes that the varieties of old."

He says the varieties of cranberries they have developed have been planted in every cranberry growing area here in New Jersey. They also have been adapted in virtually every other state that grows cranberries, and also every province that grows cranberries in Canada.

"They are even in Chile now and in New Zealand."

Vorsa says the quest for the world's best cranberry sauce ingredient is ongoing.

"We hope to have more success in releasing new varieties."

New Jersey is third in the nation in cranberry production behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Vorsa says Wisconsin is by far the largest cranberry-growing area in the country.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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