When there's a nip in the air, you can count on many things. One such thing is that there will be bags of cranberries available at your local supermarket. Nothing heralds the coming holidays quite like piles of bright red berries.
Cranberries are tart berries that grow on low shrubs in acidic bogs. Their range is mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. Although most Americans associate cranberries with New England, they also grow in Canada, the northern parts of the United States, and Northern Europe. You may be surprised to know that Wisconsin, not Massachusetts, is the #1 producer of cranberries in the US.
Native Americans introduced cranberries to the colonists during their first winter in the American colonies, which is why they are traditionally associated with Thanksgiving. Cranberries in America were first cultivated in the early 1800's in Cape Cod. A common misconception is that they grow underwater the whole year; this is untrue. Most of the year, the cranberry beds are above water, and when harvest time nears, the beds are flooded. Cranberries ripen in September and October when the berries turn red. Special machines pick the berries off the bushes, and the berries float to the surface of the water, where they are corralled off and directed to bins.
95% of cranberries are processed into juices and sauces; only 5% of the cranberry harvest is sold in whole form. Cranberries have high concentrations of vitamin C and are considered "superfoods." They help prevent kidney stones, tooth decay, urinary tract infections, and boost the immune system.
Do you have any favorite cranberry recipes to share?