I love cranberries. They are one of only three native American fruits (the blueberry and the Concord grape are the other two – and I love them all equally), and the little red cranberry carries a great big punch. Some think it should only be consumed in the form of a gelatinous, cylindrical mass. In my opinion – blech.
I like to taste the true flavor – dry and sour enough to make you pucker your lips, squeeze your eyes shut and shake your head when you drink the juice. And of course, you have to make some sort of sound at the end, like “wow!” or a few glottal sounds to inform others how tart it is. This is what it’s like for me.
The berry was called the “craneberry” by early settlers because of its blossoms’ resemblance to the head and bill of the Sandhill crane. They observed how Native Americans used the berry for medicinal uses as well as dyes. Soon the settlers added the little red berry to their ships’ cargo, to help prevent scurvy.
Today, cranberries are grown in bogs, using a very specific combination of soils, sand and water. Nope – they are not grown in water. Some cranberries are dry harvested for the fresh produce market (you’ve seen the bags of fresh cranberries next to the lemons in the produce section). The remaining crop – approximately 90% of the total cranberry crop – is flooded with water at harvest season. Machines churn the water under the vines, skiing the berries loose fem their vines. The berries have a pocket of air that allows them to float to the surface, where workers gather the berries and pump them into a truck. You can watch how they are harvested here:
Cranberries are cheap. You can find some extra-great deals in the fall, if you watch the sales ads. Try exchanging them in recipes calling for other fruits like raisins or blueberries. This cranberry almond cake recipe on the blog, Budget Bytes, is a great way to start. And Cheap Recipe Blog has a fun wonton recipe that uses cranberries. Cranberries are a super-food, offering many nutritional benefits. One Green Planet takes a look at the ways they can be a great addition to your menu.
How can you go beyond the can, and include cranberries in your harvest menu?