Holidays are just around the corner which means grocery stores are restocking a popular seasonal fruit: Cranberries!
Cranberries are one of the few fruits that are native to North America. They have been used in traditional dishes, for medicine, and Native Americans even used them to heal their arrow wounds!
Nowadays, the majority of cranberries are consumed during November and December for the holidays. Since we are entering that holiday season, and fresh cranberries are back in the grocery stores, let’s talk about how to cook with them. But first… how do these antioxidant-rich fruits grow?
When you see pictures of harvesting cranberries, you typically see flooded fields with red berries floating on top.
It turns out, that while growing, the cranberries actually grow when the ground is dry and sandy. They grow on vine-like plants that are close to the ground.
Twice a year, farmers will flood their crops. The first time is during the winter, when the plants go dormant (AKA hibernation). The water insulates the cranberries so they don’t freeze in the cold weather. After it begins to warm up, the field are drained and the cranberries continue growing.
In the harvest season (around October), the fields are once again flooded and big tractors go through the field to break off the cranberries. Since cranberries have air pockets inside, they will float after being knocked off the vine. This makes it easy for farmers to separate and collect them!
Did you know? A single cranberry takes an entire 16 months to grow!
- Fat free- Just like most fruits and vegetables, cranberries have absolutely no fat
- Good source of fiber- Fiber, as we have learned is great for our digestive system. Think of it as the ‘soap’ that helps clean the inside of us. We take showers and baths, but are we keeping our insides clean too?
- Antioxidants- Antioxidants are compounds found in all fruits and vegetables and help protect our bodies from harm. Stress, germs, and unhealthy foods can leave our body with a poor immune system. Antioxidants can help build that immune system back up and keep it strong.
Most people just think of cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving dinner, but there is so much more that you can do with cranberries such as:
- Mix with cream cheese and jalapenos for a flavorful dip
- Add to apple cider while cooking
- Add to sweet breads
- Roast with veggies (such as brussel sprouts, squash, etc.)
- Mix with apples when making applesauce
- Homemade cranberry salad dressing
- Put in the oven with turkey or ham for extra flavoring
Dried & Canned cranberries:
- Add to baked goods (cookies, breads, etc.)
- Top oatmeal
- Add to parfaits
- Mix in with roasted carrots
Varieties to Try
Cranberries come in all forms during this time of the year, but the fresh ones will not be as readily available in the spring and summer, so try them out while they are available!