Cranberries are a popular condiment during Thanksgiving feasts as a sauce, but with the health benefits of cranberries, people consume them all year-round in drinks, snacks, and desserts.
A Berry With Benefits
And the best part, besides their flavor and versatility? Cranberries are considered one of the healthiest foods.
The berry is famous for its high Vitamin C content, and it also contains a specific polyphenol, called proanthocyanidins, which prevents certain bacteria from growing. Earning the cranberry in its purest form a reputation for combating urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers.
Cranberries are also naturally low in sugar, with just 4 grams per cup. They are also shown to be heart healthy, with bioactive flavonoids that relax blood vessels, boost good lipoproteins and reduce inflammation.
How Do Cranberries Grow?
The northern United States is where most of the country’s cranberries are grown and harvested. In fact, its one of just a few fruits that are native to North America. You’ve seen the pictures of the bogs, flooded with water, and that’s exactly what it looks like.
It has proven too difficult to harvest the berries directly from the vine, so the bogs are flooded, and the harvesters pull them off with a water reel, allowing the berries to float to the top, where they’re then collected and packaged. This process is called “wet harvesting.”
Cranberry History and Uses
Cranberries were enjoyed by Native Americans, who used them as both food and dye for clothing and other materials. The berries began to be commercially farmed sometime during the 1800s, and there are North American recipes dating back to the 18th century that include them. It’s estimated that around 400 million pounds of cranberries are consumed in the United States every year–20% of that happens during Thanksgiving.
Cranberries can be used in a myriad of ways both fresh and canned, which often takes the form of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, and dried, like as a snack, a baking ingredient or in trail mix. Besides in cranberry sauce, I like them in a fragrant rice pilaf or transformed into a syrup to be used in drinks or on top of oatmeal.
Historically, cranberry sauces have been used as meat accompaniments, giving the modern-day version of cranberry sauce a rightful spot next to the turkey at the Thanksgiving table. To that point, the best time for cranberries is, unsurprisingly, right now, and more specifically from September to late November in the colder climates of the country.
Don’t wait for the winter holidays to roll around. There are so many ways to add these nutrient-packed berries into your day. Try these recipes using fresh and dried cranberries for sweet and savory applications. I can’t wait to hear what you try in the comments section below!