Everything you need to know about fall-favorite cranberries! Where they’re from, different varieties, and the health benefits of this potent little berry.
Cranberry sauce was one of those Thanksgiving dishes that, as a kid, was always a hard “no thank you”, and I continued writing cranberries off into adulthood. But cranberries have since crept onto my table, solidifying themselves as the perfect dish to balance the spread, giving sour/fruitiness to an otherwise heavy feast. I don’t think we appreciate the humble cranberry enough, so today we give thanks…to cranberries!
Unlike marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes (which hadn’t yet been introduced to America), cranberries were very likely actually served at the very first Thanksgiving in 1621. They’re one of a few commercial fruits native to North America (along with blueberries and Concord grapes) and were a staple for Native Americans, who would mash them up with game meat and fats to create little energy bites (a bit different from the energy bites of today, huh?)
Varieties of cranberries
95% of all cranberries are processed into various cranberry products. Here are a few of the main ones:
- Dried: These tasty little guys have the same amount of fiber as fresh berries, but are a lot lower in vitamins. Commercial brands will usually coat them in a bit of vegetable oil to prevent sticking, as well as sugar, so get them from a health food store if you can. They have a long shelf life, making them great for taking along as a high energy snack.
- Sauce: This is usually just sugar, cranberries, and water with optional additions (like orange zest or spices), though sometimes you’ll find it in jam/jelly form.
- Fresh: And of course, you can find fresh berries in your grocery in the fall, which is when they’re harvested.
How to select and store fresh cranberries
Fresh cranberries should be really plump and will bounce if dropped. Any wrinkly berries should be removed. They’ll quickly spoil the whole batch!
Store fresh berries in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months, or wash, dry, and freeze them.
Where Are cranberries grown?
Cranberries don’t prefer a certain spot for growing. In fact, you’ll find the bulk of them grown and harvested in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Washington, three states completely removed from one another and in totally different geographical regions. They grow along vines in what are called cranberry “bogs.”
These bogs are filled with sand, clay, and other natural materials. If you’re picturing a bed of cranberries floating on water, that’s not their growing habitat that you’re picturing! It’s actually a harvesting method. Often, farmers will fill the bogs with water. Cranberries float, and this makes for easier picking!
Are cranberries healthy?
Research doesn’t seem to support the age-old use of cranberries for treating UTIs, but they may help prevent them do to a high amount of antioxidants, like vitamin C. All the more reason to make them a part of your everyday diet! Cranberries are also a vasodilator, which means they have a knack for expanding your blood vessels which is great for controlling and reducing blood pressure.
A superfood in more ways than one
Cranberries are considered a superfood thanks to their nutritious vitamin and mineral breakdown and the fact they’re so rich in antioxidants. But, they’re a superfood in growing terms too!
A cranberry vine will last for years and years if left undamaged. According to Cranberries.org, many of the fruit-producing vines are Cape Cod are over 150 years old! How crazy is that?!
Favorite cranberry recipes
- Cranberry Salsa
- Cranberry Smoothie
- Easy No Pectin Jam
- Bliss Bites with Cranberry
- Cranberry Orange Sweet Rolls
Cranberry nutrition information
per 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries (110 g)
- Calories: 51
- Carbohydrates: 13 g
- Fiber: 5 g, 20% of Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 0 g
- Fat: 0 g
- 24% DV of Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
- 7% DV of Vitamin E (a.k.a Tocopherols and Tocotrienols): A fat-soluble antioxidant that fights against potentially damaging free radicals from reacting with oxygen when fat is metabolized.