The All-American Cranberry

The 2011 cranberry crop is expected to be one of the most plentiful on record, which means that whether you like them sauced, in a mold or straight from a can, there will be plenty of cranberries to enjoy at your Thanksgiving feast.

According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee, cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America — the others being blueberries and Concord grapes. Before they were staples on “Turkey-Day” tables, cranberries were popular with Native Americans, who ate the tart berries fresh, ground or mashed with cornmeal and baked into bread. They also mixed cranberries into pemmican, a winter-survival ration consisting of wild game and melted fat.

Not commonly grown in Ohio, cranberries favor the sandy soil of Wisconsin, which is the top cranberry-producing state in the U.S., followed by Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey and Washington.

Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay between May and October. The beds, which are called bogs or marshes, are commonly harvested by flooding the bog or marsh under a foot or two of water. Specialized machines are then used to loosen the buoyant berries, which float to the surface to be gathered and sent for processing. The flooded bogs are then left to freeze to protect the vines during the winter. In the spring, the bogs are drained to allow the plants to be pollinated by bees.

In recent years, cranberries have become more than a holiday side dish. According to The Cranberry Institute, cranberries are a super food loaded with antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Here are a few facts about cranberries to share around the holiday table:
  • There are more than 100 varieties of cranberries
  • 20 percent of cranberry consumption in the U.S. happens during Thanksgiving week
  • U.S. cranberries are a major export to Europe, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Australia
  • American whalers and mariners carried cranberries onboard ships to prevent scurvy
  • The pilgrims, who were introduced to the cranberry by Native Americans, began making cranberry juice in 1683

Photo obtained from:

No comments: