Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boggling Thoughts on Cranberries

Pedaling through the seascapes on the bicycle paths of Cape Cod in early October, cranberries intruded on my thoughts. An early visitor to New England in 1663, John Josselyn stated that “The Indians and English use them much, boyling them with sugar for sauce to eat with their meat, and it is a delicious sauce.” Interesting facts about cranberries are that they bounce and they float. Cranberries are so bounce-able when good and ripe, they are also called bounce berries! Because of the little air pockets surrounding the seeds, cranberries float and some farmers harvest them from the vines by flooding the bog with water. The season for fresh cranberries is from September to December, with its peak in November – cranberry festivals abound in the New England growing areas along with autumn festivities. The cranberry gets its name from the Pilgrims who called it a “crane berry.” Vines bloom in the late spring and the flowers’ light pink petals twist back, resembling the head and bill of a sand hill crane.
Cram-packed with healthy phyto-nutrients, cranberries are easily accessible, and they add a tangy zing to any recipe. Choose plump, colorful, unblemished berries -- not those that are soft, shriveled or have a dull appearance. Fresh cranberries can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Cranberries purchased in the bag can be frozen, unopened and you can use the berries without thawing. Berries purchased in bulk or freshly harvested can be frozen on a tray and then packed into rigid containers or flexible freezer bags. Wash and remove stems prior to freezing and plan to use frozen berries within 9 months for best quality. To prepare cranberries, simply wash, boil and eat! What could be easier?
Ways to Use Cranberries:
  • Put cooked cranberries in hot cereals for a refreshing taste
  • Try taking some dried cranberries with you as you travel – no refrigeration needed!
  • Make a blender smoothie with a cup each of citrus flavored yogurt, orange juice, and fresh or frozen cranberries
  • Include a few fresh or dried cranberries in muffin or pancake recipes
  • Spread spinach or romaine lettuce leaves with reduced fat cream cheese and top with fresh, cooked or dried cranberries. Roll up, if desired
  • Find a recipe for a cranberry crisp (or blend with apples or peaches for a double fruit crisp)
  • Cranberry sauce is a breeze to make, using the microwave or a saucepan – stir in a tablespoon of orange marmalade and some whole blanched almonds to dress it up
  • Check labels or on-line for cranberry-orange relish or chutney recipes
  • Add to apples, when cooking them for applesauce or apple pie
  • Add color and nutrients by including in salads
According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Services, one cup of raw cranberries has about one fourth of the current Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin C for an adult, and 5 grams of fiber, plus significant amounts of vitamin A and potassium. This one cup serving has only 50 calories. In addition to their nutritional value, cranberries contain beneficial phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and proanthocyanidins. Research suggests these plant chemicals prevent E. coli (the bacteria that often cause urinary tract infections) from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, preventing them from causing infection. These substances may also be protective against cardiovascular disease, and have anti-cancer properties. Native Americans pounded dried lean game with cranberries (or other berries) and mixed in rendered fat to make Pemmican, a mixture rich in protein and fat, as well as the all-important scurvy-preventing vitamin C. Cranberry sauce contributes both nutrients and color to our Thanksgiving Day meal, one of the season’s requirements, along with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie!

Bicycling over a cranberry bog that had been in production for over a hundred years was a reminder of the enduring qualities of this berry in our nation’s history and traditions.

For recipes using cranberries, check out Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation at For more information about Urinary Tract Infections, check out the National Institutes of Health website:

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