Crazy For Cranberries
Sweet or Savory, We’re Wild About this Fruit
BY ANNETTE BROOKS
Every year, the cranberry harvest welcomes autumn with a splash of bright, cheery red color. Although these hard, round fruits can be eaten raw, their tart taste is perfect for sweet treats and savory dishes. From quick breads and cakes to stuffing and holiday punch, they pop up in homes across the country. November is an especially cranberry- crazy month, with cranberry sauce served alongside nearly every Thanksgiving feast. According to Ocean Spray, Americans consume 80 million pounds of cranberries during the week of Thanksgiving alone.
Native North American Plant
Like many of the wonderful native foods we consume in North America, wild cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) were used by Native Americans. Called sassamenesh by the Algonquin and ibimi by the Wampanoag and Lenni-Lenape tribes, which translates as “bitter” or “sour berries,” cranberries were used for everything from medicines to treat arrow wounds to cooking and textile dyes.
One of the most popular uses for cranberries was pemmican, which is still prepared today. In areas where cranberries grew, Native Americans ate this high-protein, high-calorie combination of crushed cranberries, dried deer or bison meat, and melted fat, depending on it for their survival. It’s reported that this survival food can last up to half a decade if you store it properly.
This knowledge was passed on, and pemmican became an important food source for settlers, frontiersmen, and fur traders. And Admiral Robert Peary relied on it when he explored the Arctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Good forYou Superfood
According to Medical News Today, cranberries are a super food that can lower the risk of urinary tract infection, decrease blood pressure, help prevent certain types of cancer, improve immunity, and help eliminate free radicals from the liver. A good source of several nutrients and antioxidants, they are a rich source of vitamins A, C, E, and K1, the mineral manganese, and have a trace of copper, which can help support heart health. One cup of raw fruit also contains 2% of your daily requirement of potassium and 1% of your daily requirement of iron and calcium.
Thinking about drinking more cranberry juice for health benefits? Try pure cranberry juice such as Ocean Spray 100% Juice No Sugar Added. If it’s too tart for your taste, try a lower-sugar version like Knudsen Family Lower Sugar Organic Cranberry Juice Beverage, which doesn’t contain sucralose. “Diet” cranberry juices often contain sucralose, an artificial no-calorie sweetener about 600 times sweeter than sugar.
If you’re into skincare products, you’ve probably noticed cranberry is an ingredient in many brands. It packs a one-two punch as a good source of vitamin A, known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, and vitamin C and salicylic acid, which help brighten the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. If you want to try a DIY anti-aging cranberry face mask, combine 1⁄2 cup chopped cranberries, one teaspoon of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt, and one teaspoon of honey. Blend well, then brush over your face, neck, and décolleté. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. You should notice softer, smoother skin after just one application.
• According to Ocean Spray, Americans consume 400 million pounds of cranberries annually. • Cranberries are a member of the heather family and are related to blueberries, bilberries, and lingonberries. • 98% of global cranberry production comes from the United States and Canada alone. • Five states grow most of our nation’s cranberries — Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, with Wisconsin producing more than half. • Cranberries grow in wet, marshy areas called bogs. They require a growing season of three months of chilly winter weather at 32° to 45° F to ensure flower set and fruit in spring. • Cranberries are harvested in North America from mid- September until around mid-November. The bogs are typically flooded with water the night before the harvest. Growers then use water reels, nicknamed “eggbeaters,” that churn the water and loosen the cranberries from the vine. • Cranberries float in water because there are pockets of air inside the fruit. During harvest, they float to the surface, where they are skimmed and collected on trucks. • A cup of raw cranberries contains around 46 calories, zero grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and only four grams of sugar. Of all fruits, cranberries have one of the lowest amounts of sugar. • Dried cranberries with a sweet flavor, like the brand Craisins, are 130 calories per 1⁄4 cup serving due to the added sugar.
CRANBERRY CHEWY NUT BARS
INGREDIENTS 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter 1 1⁄2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
1 1⁄3 cup flaked coconut 1 cup chopped walnuts
INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in the oven in a 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted butter, then pour condensed milk evenly over the graham cracker crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients and press down firmly. Bake 25 minutes, cool, and cut into bars. Store in an airtight covered container at room temperature.