Crop Spot: Cranberries

Did you know that the name “cranberry” came from the phrase “crane berry”? This was how Midwestern settlers originally referred to cranberries, because their blossoms resemble a sandhill crane. Cranberries are a delicious bright red fruit that add a lovely pop of flavor to a variety of dishes and drinks. Often forgotten about until the holiday season, cranberries are really worth remembering all year round because they are so versatile to use in cooking. Read on to learn more about this tasty fruit!

How Cranberries Grow

Cranberries are native to North America and grow well in the Midwest. In fact, Wisconsin grows the most cranberries of any state! However, these berries are a relatively high-maintenance crop. They grow on low-lying vines in beds designed to mimic what was left behind by glacial deposits. These beds, typically layered with sand, gravel, clay and sometimes peat, are referred to as cranberry bogs or cranberry marshes. The wetland-like nature of these bogs filters and purifies water, although contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow directly in water. Water is often added to the beds to aid in harvesting the berries, since the tiny pocket of air inside the berry causes them to float!

Health Benefits of Cranberries

Cranberries are extremely rich in vitamin C, which is essential for tissue repair, the production of certain neurotransmitters, and immune system health. Cranberries are also well-known for promoting urinary tract health and preventing urinary tract infections in women. A 2016 study showed that consuming a glass of cranberry juice each day significantly lowered the frequency of urinary tract infections in women who experienced them regularly. Cranberries are also one of the fruits richest in disease-fighting antioxidants!

Cranberries in the Kitchen

Raw cranberries can often have a sour taste, so cranberries are most commonly sweetened slightly in sauces, casseroles, juices or desserts. For a twist on classic cranberry sauce, try adding bay leaves, orange zest or quince. This cranberry cake is a perfect combination of sweet and tart and travels well to deliver to a friend or bring to a gathering. Adding cranberries to apple pie is a surprising and colorful twist to an old favorite. Cranberries also make wonderful garnishes or juices for drinks. Cranberry simple syrup is a tasty way to add bright color and flavor to cocktails; garnish the drink with fresh cranberries!

Elizabeth Pearce is TLD’s Operations Assistant. She is based in southeast Michigan.

Picture credits: USA Today, Britannica

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