Monday, October 4, 2010

Cranberries~Nature's superfood

     Cranberries, a unique fruit that heralds the harvest season. This tiny fruit almost always has a standing invitation to all Thanksgiving feasts. Cranberries are one of the three fruits native to North America. The two others being blueberries and Concord grapes.  Before the Europeans settled in the Northeast the Native Americans were benefiting from the cranberries unique properties. They combined crushed cranberries, dried deer meat and melted fat to make a protein packed survival food known as pemmican.   The healers of the tribes knew long before the doctors that cranberries had antiseptic properties, and it was used as poultices to draw out poison from arrow wounds and reduce bleeding. The women of the tribes could use the cranberry as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing.
     So what about the name?  Nauset Indians called them "sassamanesh", the Cape Cod Pequot tribes and the Jersey Leni-lenape tribes referred to them as "ibimi" or "bitter berry", and the Wisconsin Algonquins called the fruit "atoqua".  With all these names how did it become known as the cranberry.  Dutch and German settlers thought the flowers resembled the the head and bill of the sandhill crane, so was born the craneberry or now the cranberry.
     American whaler Captain Henry Hall knew about the cranberries medicinal magic and carried them on voyages to prevent scurvy, and was a pioneer in the cultivation.  One man's idea was the cornerstone of the bog.  Cranberries are unique in that they have a very specific growing environment, they require acid peat soil, adequate water supply , sand and a growing season that spans from April to November. Also, the cranberry needs a hibernation period during the winter months, where the chilly temperatures mature fruiting buds.
     Contrary to popular belief cranberries do not grow in water. The sandy bogs are flooded with water during harvest season and shaken with a machine that resembles an egg-beater, this action breaks off the berry and they float to the surface where they then are skimmed off the surface.  Another unique trademark of the cranberry is that they bounce, due to a small air pocket in the fruit. A New Jersey grower John "Peg Leg" Webb used this fact to his advantage, and instead of carrying his crop from the loft of his barn, he poured them down the steps, the freshest reached the bottom steps, and the rotten remained, thus the rotten berries did not bounce. 
     Not everyone starts out being a fan of cranberries, the taste is an acquired one, a flavor that grows on you. Every Thanksgiving this fruit adorns tables across America and little did we know that this little berry could be a beneficial component to your diet. Once thought to prevent scurvy, its loaded with antioxidants, full of astringent properties, beneficial in stomping out E Coli, and urinary tract infections, and now cranberries show promising research in fighting antibiotic resistant staph infections or MRSA , by simply drinking it, preventing the bacteria from beginning the process of infection.

I got food poisoning today. I don't know when I'll use it.~ Steven Wright


Dominique said...

Thanks for the reminder of the wonderful benefits of cranberries and sharing their history. There is almost always cranberries available in the salad bar of the co-op. I think I'll eat some tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I never knew so much about cranberries! I look forward to cranberry season every year. I think i have 8 bags in the fridge. LOL Talk about hoarding!!

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