Cranberries are low in calories, high in nutrition and nutrients.
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Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent andtreat urinary tract infections. Now, recent studies suggest that thisnative American berry may also promote gastrointestinal and oralhealth, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower LDL and raise HDL(good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help preventcancer.
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Tart, red cranberries are grown in the coastal regions of Washington, in Pacific and Grays Harbor Counties, and are available fresh from October through December. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for two to four weeks in a plastic bag. The fruit can be easily frozen in the purchased bag for 9 to 12 months. Just rinse and use the frozen berries.
Recipe by: Chef Julia Bushree
- 3/4 cup Fresh Cranberries
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1/4 cup Raisins
- 1/4 cup Rum
- 2 tsp. Lemon Peel
- 1/3 cup Blanched Almonds
- 2/3 cup Sugar
- 8 Apples
- 1 Tbs. All-purpose Flour
- 1 tsp. Cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
- 2, 10-in. Unbaked Pie Shells
- Lattice Crust for two 10-inch pies
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tbs. Milk
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 Tbs. Sugar
Chop the cranberries and place them in a bowl. Combine the cranberries with 1/3 cup sugar and let stand one hour. Soak the raisins in the rum for 30 minutes. Chop the lemon peel and almonds and combine with 2/3 cup sugar. Slice the apples. In a large bowl, combine lemon peel mixture, flour, cornstarch and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon. Add the apples,
cranberries, raisins, rum, and lemon juice. Fill the prepared pie shells and top with a lattice crust. Combine the egg and milk and brush over the crust. Combine 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon and 1Tbs. of sugar and sprinkle over the crust. Bake in a 425° oven for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350° and bake an additional 40 minutes.
Protection against Urinary Tract Infection
Cranberries have been valued for their ability to reduce the risk ofurinary tract infections for hundreds of years. In 1994, aplacebo-controlled study of 153 elderly women was published in theJournal of the American Medical Association that gave scientificcredibility to claims of cranberries effectiveness in preventingurinary tract infection. In this study, the women given cranberry juicehad less than half the number of urinary infections as the controlgroup (only 42% as many, to be precise), who received a placeboimitation "cranberry" drink. The daily dose of cranberry juice in thisinitial study was just 300 milliliters (about one and one-quartercups). Since then, a number of other studies have also confirmedanecdotal tales of cranberry's ability to both treat and preventurinary tract infections. In most of these later studies, subjectsdrank about 16 ounces (2 cups) of cranberry juice daily.
How does cranberry juice help prevent urinary tract infections?It acidifies the urine, contains an antibacterial agent called hippuricacid, and also contains other compounds that reduce the ability of E.coli bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract. Before aninfection can start, a pathogen must first latch on to and thenpenetrate the mucosal surface of the urinary tract walls, butcranberries prevent such adherence, so the E. coli is washed away inthe urine and voided. Since E. coli is pathogen responsible for 80-90%of urinary tract infections, the protection afforded by cranberries isquite significant.Studies attempting to explain cranberries' protective effects onurinary tract health were presented at the Experimental BiologyConference held in 2002. Amy Howell, research scientist at the MarucciCenter for Blueberry Cranberry Research at Rutgers University and JessReed, professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,compared the proanthycyanins (active compounds) in cranberries to thosefound in grapes, apples, green tea and chocolate. They discovered that"the cranberry's proanthocyanidins are structurally different than theproanthocyanidins found in the other plant foods tested, which mayexplain why cranberry has unique bacterial anti-adhesion activity andhelps to maintain urinary tract health."
8-Ounces Better than 4 to Prevent Bladder Infections
Cranberry's protective effects against bladder infections may bedose responsive, with 8-ounces of cranberry juice being twice aseffective as 4-ounces, suggests preliminary research presented at the42nd Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America byKalpana Gupta from the University of Washington.
Gupta reported the details of a very small trial in which threevolunteers were given 27% cranberry juice cocktail. Urine samples,collected before and 4-6 hours after drinking the cranberry juice, werecombined with human bladder cells and incubated with Escherichia coli(the most common cause of bladder infections). The number of bacteriaable to adhere to the bladder cells (the first step a pathogen mustachieve to be able to cause infection) was significantly reduced in theurine of all women who drank the cranberry juice cocktail, and theeffect was doubled when the women drank eight ounces of cranberryrather than four ounces.Cranberry's protective effect is thought to be due to a specific typeof tannin, found only in cranberries and blueberries, which interfereswith projections on the bacterium, preventing it from sticking to thewalls of the bladder and causing infection. However, once the bacteriahave established a hold, it's best to seek medical advice. No evidenceshows cranberry juice is able to cure an established bladder infection,which can lead to a more serious kidney infection. The researchers planfurther studies in a larger group of women to investigate the optimalamount and frequency of cranberry juice consumption.
Cranberry Juice Shows Promise as Alternative to Antibiotics
New research has greatly increased our understanding of how cranberry juice prevents urinary tract and kidney infections.
A series of studies led by Terri Camesano from WorcesterPolytechnic Institute, the latest of which were presented September 19,2006 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in SanFrancisco, show that compounds in cranberry juice have the capacity toactually change E. coli bacteria-even strains that have becomeresistant to conventional treatment-in ways that render them unable toinitiate an infection.E. coli, a class of microorganisms responsible for a widevariety of human illnesses ranging from urinary tract and kidneyinfections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay, are changed in severalways by a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins) found primarilyin cranberries. Each one of these changes can prevent the bacteria fromadhering to cells in the body, a necessary first step in any infection.
- Alter E. coli's cell membranes
- Prevent the bacteria from making contact with cells or attaching to them even if they somehow manage to get close enough
- Change the shape of E.coli from rods to spheres
- Disrupt bacterial communication
Alter E. coli Cell Membranes
In research published February 2006 in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Camesano showed that exposure to cranberry juice causes tiny tendrils (known as fimbriae) on the surface of the type of E. colibacteria responsible for the most serious types of urinary tractinfections to become compressed. Since its fimbriae are what allow thebacteria to bind tightly to the lining of the urinary tract,compressing them greatly reduces E. coli's ability to remain in place long enough to launch an infection.
Prevent E. coli from Making Contact
In research published in August 2006 in Colloids and Surfaces, B. BiointerfacesCamesano found that chemical changes caused by cranberry juice alsocreate an energy barrier that prevents the bacteria from getting closeenough to the urinary tract lining to try to adhere in the first place.
Change E. coli's Shape and Activity
Camesano's latest work reveals that cranberry juice can transform E. coliin even more radical ways, which have never before been observed. Whenthe bacteria were grown in solutions containing various concentrationsof either cranberry juice or cranberry tannins, E. coli, whichis normally a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium, became spherical andstarted behaving like gram-positive bacteria. Since gram-negative andgram-positive bacteria differ primarily in the structure of their cellmembranes, these results suggest that cranberry tannins actually alter E. coli's membrane.
The research Camesano presented at the ACS meeting also includedyet another, more preliminary finding: when exposed to cranberry juice,E. coli appear to lose their ability to secrete indole, amolecule involved in a form of bacterial communication called quorumsensing, which is used by E. coli to determine when sufficient bacteria are present at a location to stage a successful infection attack.
"We are beginning to get a picture of cranberry juice and, inparticular, the tannins found in cranberries, as potentially potentantibacterial agents," Camesano said. "These results are surprising andintriguing, particularly given the increasing concern about the growingresistance of certain disease-causing bacteria to antibiotics."For most of these effects, the higher the concentration of eithercranberry juice or tannins, the greater their impact on E. coli, suggesting that whole cranberry products and juice that has not been highly diluted may have the greatest health effects.
Cranberries Combat Herpes VirusLaboratory studies published in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Science, Food and Agriculturehave shown that a phytonutrient isolated from cranberries is effectiveagainst the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), the cause of genital herpes.In a manner similar to the way the tannins in cranberries protectagainst bladder infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to thebladder wall, cranberries' antiviral compound, proanthocyanidin A-1,inhibits the attachment and penetration of the herpes virus.While thisis promising, we look forward to studies involving human subject toconfirm these findings.
A Pro-biotic Berry for Gastrointestinal and Oral Health?
Not only kidney infections, but the majority of infectious diseasesare initiated by the adhesion of pathogenic organisms to the tissues ofthe host. Cranberries ability to block this adhesion has beendemonstrated not only against E. coli, the bacterium most commonlyresponsible for urinary tract infection, but also for a number of othercommon pathogens.
Delegates at the 2002 American Chemical Society meeting andExperimental Biology Conference were also informed about cranberries'ability to act as a natural probiotic, supporting the health-promotingbacteria that grow in the human gastro-intestinal tract while killingoff the bacteria that promote infections and foodborne illnesses.
One study presented by Leslie Plhak from the University ofWisconsin-Madison found that whole frozen cranberries containedcompounds able to inhibit the growth of common foodborne pathogensincluding Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli 0157:H7, but enhanced thegrowth of the beneficial bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum by as muchas 25 times.
Another test tube study published in Critical Reviews in FoodScience and Nutrition indicated that a constituent in cranberry juiceprevents the bacterium responsible for most gastric ulcers,Helicobacter pylori, from adhering to gastric epithelial cells (thecells that form the lining of the stomach).
Also published in this same journal was a study noting thatcompounds isolated from cranberry juice actually dissolved theaggregates formed by many oral bacteria and was effective in decreasingthe salivary level of Streptococus mutans, the major cause oftooth decay. Among the other fruits tested, none had a similar effectexcept blueberries, whose protective action was much weaker that thatof cranberries.
Further lab studies, published in Caries Research support cranberries' ability to inhibit prevent cavities.
Dr Hyun Hoo, an oral biologist at the University of RochesterMedial Center in New York, studied the effects of cranberry juice onthe processes involved in the development of biofilms by S. mutans.Results showed that the cranberry juice interfered with S. mutans'ability to stick to the surface of the "tooth," thus preventing thedevelopment of cavities in a way similar to cranberry's action inpreventing urinary tract infections, in which cranberry juice inhibitsthe adhesion of pathogens in the urinary tract. One warning here: don'tconsume large quantities of sugar-laden cranberry juice or cranberrysauce to protect your teeth; the sugar in these products is likely tocause not prevent decay. Choose unsweetened organic cranberry juice.
Prevention of Kidney Stone Formation
Cranberries contain quinic acid, an acidic compound that is unusualin that it is not broken down in the body but is excreted unchanged inthe urine. The presence of quinic acid causes the urine to become justslightly acidic-a level of acidity that is, however, sufficient toprevent calcium and phosphate ions from joining to form insolublestones. In patients who have had recurrent kidney stones, cranberryjuice has been shown to reduce the amount of ionized calcium in theirurine by more than 50%-a highly protective effect since in the U.S.,75-85% of kidney stones are composed of calcium salts.
In one recent study evaluating the effect of cranberry juice onkidney stone formation, study subjects were divided into two groups,one of which drank 2 cups of cranberry juice diluted with 6 cups watereach day for 2 weeks, while the other group drank tap water for thesame period. After a 2 week period in which neither group drank anycranberry juice, the groups were switched, so that those who had drunkcranberry juice drank only tap water, while those who had drunk tapwater consumed 2 cups cranberry juice diluted with 6 cups tap waterdaily for an additional 2 weeks. In both groups, drinking cranberryjuice was found to significantly and uniquely alter three key urinaryrisk factors for the better: oxalate and phosphate excretion decreased;citrate excretion increased; and the relative supersaturation ofcalcium oxalate was significantly lower.In another trial that evaluated the influence of cranberry, plum andblackcurrant juice on urinary stone risk factors, cranberry juicedecreased the urinary pH (made the urine more acidic), and increasedthe excretion of oxalic acid and the relative supersaturation for uricacid. The researchers concluded that cranberry juice could be useful inthe treatment of brushite (calcium) and struvite (non-calcium) stonesas well as urinary tract infection.
Beneficial Actions on Cholesterol
After test tube research conducted at the University of Scrantondemonstrated that cranberries' antioxidants could protect LDLcholesterol from oxidation, and animal research at three otheruniversities provided evidence that cranberries can decrease levels oftotal cholesterol and LDL (low density or "bad" cholesterol), a humanstudy has also corroborated these positive results.
The three month study funded by the U.S. Cranberry Institutewas presented at the 225th national meeting of the American ChemicalSociety. Researchers measured cholesterol levels in 19 subjects withhigh cholesterol after a fasting, baseline blood sampling, followed bymonthly samplings. Ten of the subjects were given cranberry juice withartificial sweetener, while the other subjects drank cranberry juicewith no added sugars. Like typical supermarket cranberry juices, thedrinks all contained approximately 27% pure cranberry juice by volume.Each subject drank one 8-ounce glass of juice a day for the firstmonth, then two glasses a day for the next month, and finally, threeglasses a day during the third month of the study. Subjects were notmonitored with respect to exercise, diet and alcohol consumption.
Although no changes occurred in their overall cholesterollevels, study subjects' HDL (good) cholesterol increased by an averageof 10% after drinking three glasses of cranberry juice per day-anincrease that, based on known epidemiological data on heart disease,corresponds to approximately a 40% reduction in heart disease risk.
Similarly, subjects' plasma antioxidant capacity, a measure ofthe total amount of antioxidants available in the body, wassignificantly increased-by as much as 121% after two or three servingsof juice per day. Increased antioxidant levels are also associated witha decreased risk of heart disease.While the mechanism by which cranberry juice changes cholesterol levelshas not been clearly established, the researchers have theorized thatthe effect is due to the fruit's high levels of polyphenols, a type ofpotent antioxidant.
New research appears to be confirming this theory. Pterostilbene(pronounced TARE-oh-STILL-bean), a powerful antioxidant compound foundin cranberries, which is already known to fight cancer, may also helplower cholesterol.
In an experimental study, scientists at the USDA AgriculturalResearch Service compared the cholesterol-lowering effects ofpterostilbene to those of ciprofibrate, a lipid-lowering drug, andresveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes with a chemical structuresimilar to pterostilbene that has been shown to help fight cancer andheart disease.
They based their comparison on each compound's ability toactivate PPAR-alpha (short for peroxisome proliferator-activatedreceptor alpha). The PPARs are a family of receptors on cell membranesthat are involved in the absorption of compounds into cells for use inenergy production. PPAR-alpha is crucial for the metabolism of lipids,including cholesterol.Pterostilbene was as effective as ciprofibrate and outperformedresveratrol in activating PPAR-alpha. The take away message: turn upyour cholesterol burning machinery by eating more cranberries. (Grapesand blueberries are also good sources of pterostilbene.)
Increases Cardio-Protective HDL Cholesterol
Having low blood levels of "good" HDL cholesterol has long beenrecognized as a factor that increases risk of cardiovascular disease,but something as simple as enjoying a daily 8-ounce glass oflow-calorie cranberry juice may significantly increase blood levels ofcardioprotective HDL cholesterol, suggests a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Ruel G., Omperleau S, et al.)
In this trial, 30 abdominally obese men, averaging 51 years inage, drank increasing amounts (4 ounces, 8 ounces and 12 ounces daily)of low-calorie cranberry juice during three successive 4-week periods.
While no changes in the men's HDL were noted after drinking 4ounces of cranberry juice each day, a large increase (+8.6%) incirculating levels of HDL was noted after the men drank 8-ounces ofcranberry juice daily, an effect that leveled out (+8.1%) during thefinal 12-ounce phase of the study.
After drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice daily, the men'striglyceride levels also dropped, while their levels of total and LDLcholesterol remained unchanged, which means that overall, their overalllipid profile significantly improved.
The researchers chose abdominally obese men because, in otherresearch (Farnier M, Garnier P, et al., Int J Clin Pract), abdominalobesity, high triglycerides and being male, have been strongly linkedto low HDL and cardiovascular disease.Abdominal obesity, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol are alsokey symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, a condition which greatlyincreases one's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And type 2 diabetesis well known to be a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease,which remains the leading cause of death not only in the U.S., butthroughout the developed world. So, the subjects in this study were menwhose health was greatly at risk.
Isn't it wonderful that something as simple, affordable and deliciousas a daily 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice offers such potentialbeneficial impact on our health? Instead of buying the "low-calorie"cranberry juice, which is usually sweetened with aspartame orcomparable chemicals, look for unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate.It will be less expensive and healthier to simply add a littleconcentrate to a glass of water, then sweeten to taste with honey orstevia.
Improved Blood Vessel Function, Protecting Even Individuals with Atherosclerosis against Heart Attacks
A daily dose of cranberry powder restores blood vessel health inlaboratory animals with atherosclerosis, shows research presented atthe 2005 annual congress of the International Union of PhysiologicalSciences.
Earlier small studies have already demonstrated that people whodrink cranberry juice have higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Thenew study examined blood vessel health in animals specially bred todevelop high cholesterol, followed by atherosclerosis, by eight monthsof age.
Study results suggest that cranberries not only reduce the riskof developing heart disease by improving HDL cholesterol levels, butalso improve blood vessel function, so can help individuals who alreadyhave atherosclerosis.
"Since the abnormal functioning of blood vessels is animportant component of heart disease, finding ways to improve vascularfunction in patients with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis iscritical to helping protect these patients from consequences such asheart attack or stroke," said lead researcher Kris Kruse-Elliott fromthe University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers think cranberries' polyphenols are responsible fortheir cardiovascular benefits. While humans would need to eat four toeight servings of cranberry powder, or 10-20 servings of cranberryjuice, in order to achieve the levels of polyphenols given the animalsin the study, co-author Jess Reed said: "The point to be emphasized isthat total polyphenol intake is very low in western diets and a dietrich in polyphenols would in fact give a daily intake that isequivalent to the levels in our cranberry feeding experiments."Increasing the polyphenol content of your diet is easy-just make theWorld's Healthiest Foods the foundation of your meals! In addition tomaking the most of fresh cranberries around Thanksgiving when they'rein season (see our recipe suggestions below), enjoy a glass ofcranberry juice with breakfast or try a cranberry spritzer for arefreshing pick-me-up any time of day.
Studies conducted at the University of Scranton, PA, and funded bythe Cranberry Institute, a trade association for cranberry growers inthe US and Canada, have revealed cranberries to be phytochemicalpowerhouses packed with five times the antioxidant content of broccoli.When compared to 19 other common fruits, cranberries were found tocontain the highest level of antioxidant phenols.
Other studies presented at the 223rd national meeting of theAmerican Chemical Society also showed that cranberries have among thehighest levels of phenols of commonly consumed fruits. One studypresented at the meetings by biochemist Yuegang Zuo from the Universityof Massachusetts-Dartmouth looked at 20 different fruit juices andfound that cranberry juice had the most phenols and the highest radicalscavenging capacity of all of them.Another study to compare levels of phenolic compounds in common fruits,which was conducted at Cornell University and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistryalso confirmed that cranberries had the highest phenolic content of thefruits studied. Cranberries were followed in descending order by apple,red grape, strawberry, pineapple, banana, peach, lemon, orange, pearand grapefruit.
Also at the 2002 national meeting of the American Chemical Society,Catherine Neto, assistant professor at the University ofMassachusetts-Dartmouth, presented research on several newly discoveredcompounds in cranberries that were toxic to a variety of cancer tumorcell lines, including lung, cervical, prostate, breast and leukemiacancer cells. The Cornell study mentioned above that confirmedcranberries as having the highest levels of antioxidants among commonfruits also found that cranberries had the strongest ability to inhibitthe proliferation of human liver cancer cells.
The compounds found in cranberries that help prevent urinarytract infections may also help prevent cancer, suggests additionalresearch conducted at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth byCatherine Neto and reported in the online edition of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Neto's team isolated active cranberry compounds, calledproanthocyanidins, and then tested them on several tumor cell lines.Cranberry proanthocyanidins inhibited the growth of all thecancers-human lung, colon and leukemia cells-in culture, withoutaffecting healthy cells.
Unlike most fruit, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins withA-type linkages between units, a structural feature identified incranberry proanthocyanidins with antibacterial adhesion properties andthose with LDL-protective properties, explained lead researcher,Catherine Neto.
Cranberries' proanthocyanidins unique characteristics maytranslate into a superior ability to prevent cancer. This study showedsignificant inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, not previouslyshown with other proanthocyanidins, as well as the blocking of tumorgrowth.
The protective activity occurred at no less than 100ug/mLconcentration. "It's hard to say whether you would get these levelsdistributed to different tissues to the extent where you would haveactivity in vivo, but eating cranberries could be helpful," said Neto.
"There are so many compounds in cranberries capable of havingsome anti-cancer mechanism that when taken together there is potentialfor benefit," she added.
For cancer prevention, enjoy whole cranberries, not justcranberry juice. Cranberry presscake (the material remaining aftersqueezing juice from the berries), when fed to laboratory animalsbearing human breast cancer cells, has previously been shown todecrease the growth and metastasis of tumors. A new study published inthe Journal of Nutrition suggests compounds in whole cranberries also inhibit prostate, skin, lung and brain cancer cells as well.
Androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells were inhibited the most(just 10 mg of a warm water extract of cranberry presscake inhibitedtheir growth by 50%). With androgen-independent prostate cancer cellsand estrogen-independent breast cancer cells, a larger amount wasneeded but produced the same beneficial effect (250 mg of cranberrypresscake extract inhibited their growth by 50%).
Researchers concluded that the active compounds in wholecranberry prevent cancer by blocking cell cycle progression andinducing cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Cranberry's Phytonutrients Help Shut Down Human Breast Cancer Cells
Enjoying a handful of dried cranberries in your spinach salad or adaily glass of cranberry juice with a meal may be a delicious way tohelp protect yourself against breast cancer. In laboratory studiespublished in Cancer Letters, cranberry phytonutrients greatlyinhibited proliferation of human breast cancer cells, both by causingthe cancer cells to commit suicide and by shutting down their abilityto multiply by stopping their process of cellular replication beforeits completion.
After just 4 hours' exposure to cranberry phytonutrientextracts at the low dose of just 50 milligrams per milliliter, theratio of breast cancer cells committing suicide to total cellsincreased 25% compared to control cells not exposed to cranberryphytonutrients.Cranberry phytonutrient extracts at doses from 10 to 50 milligrams permilliliter were also highly effective in stopping breast cancer cellsfrom multiplying. After 24 hours, cancer cell replication was 6 timeshigher in the control breast cancer cells than in those exposed tocranberry extracts.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright asa child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more importantfor keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmologyindicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may loweryour risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary causeof vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consumeless than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men,researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption offruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; andcarotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, amore severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Foodintake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years forwomen and 12 years for men.While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins andcarotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form ofARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form ofthis vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound likea lot to eat each day, but by simply topping off a cup of yogurt orgreen salad with a half cup of cranberries, tossing a banana into yourmorning smoothie or slicing it over your cereal, and snacking on anapple, plum, nectarine or pear, you've reached this goal.
A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to thesame genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium. Like blueberries, cranberriescan still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northernAsia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries aregrown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs.
Cranberries have also been called "bounceberries," because ripeones bounce, and "craneberries," a poetic allusion to the fact thattheir pale pink blossoms look a bit like the heads of the cranes thatfrequent cranberry bogs. The variety cultivated commercially in thenorthern United States and southern Canada, the American cranberry,produces a larger berry than either the Southern cranberry, a wildspecies that is native to the mountains of the eastern United States,or the European variety.
American Indians enjoyed cranberries cooked and sweetened with honeyor maple syrup-a cranberry sauce recipe that was likely a treat atearly New England Thanksgiving feasts. By the beginning of the 18thcentury, the tart red berries were already being exported to England bythe colonists. Cranberries were also used by the Indians decoratively,as a source of red dye, and medicinally, as a poultice for wounds sincenot only do their astringent tannins contract tissues and help stopbleeding, but we now also know that compounds in cranberries haveantibiotic effects.
Although several species of cranberries grow wild in Europe andAsia, the cranberry most cultivated is an American native, which owesits commercial success to one Henry Hall, an observant gentleman inDennis, Massachusetts. In 1840, Mr. Hall noticed an abundance of largeberries grew when sand was swept into his bog by the prevailing windsand tides. The sandy bog provided just the right growing conditions forthe cranberries by stifling the growth of shallow-rooted weeds, thusenhancing that of the deep rooted cranberries.
Cranberry cultivation soon spread not only across the U.S.through Wisconsin to Washington and Oregon, but also across the sea toScandinavia and Great Britain. The hardy berries arrived in Holland assurvivors of a shipwreck. When an American ship loaded with cratesfilled with cranberries sank along the Dutch coast, many crates washedashore on the small island of Terschelling; some of the berries tookroot, and cranberries have been cultivated there ever since.
Despite their adventures abroad, cranberries are stillprimarily grown in the United States, where 154 thousand metric tonsare produced annually. Half the annual crop still comes fromMassachusetts and is harvested between Labor Day and Halloween.