Cranberry News – Latest articles and recipes from around the world.
Cranberries are remarkable little fruits, so versatile and full of vitamins – they will even cure your cystitis! Personally, I’ve never had it. But that doesn’t stop me drinking it regularly as an antioxidant drink. Here are three recipes which show the versatility of the cranberry
Three recipes using cranberries that you can use at any time
What are Cranberries?
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. In some methods of classification, Oxycoccus is regarded as a genus in its own right. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere.
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 metres (7 ft) long and 5 to 20 centimetres (2 to 8 in) in height; they have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in certain American states and Canadian provinces (see cultivation and uses below). Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry sauce is regarded an indispensable part of traditional American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus and some European winter festivals.
Since the early 21st century within the global functional food industry, raw cranberries have been marketed as a “superfruit” due to their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities.
The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. The traditional English name for Vaccinium oxycoccos, fenberry, originated from plants found growing in fen (marsh) lands. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, especially for pemmican, wound medicine and dye. Calling the red berries Sassamanash, natives may have introduced cranberries to starving English settlers in Massachusetts who incorporated the berries into traditional Thanksgiving feasts American Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall is credited as first to farm cranberries in the Cape Cod town of Dennis around 1816. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe. Cranberries became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. In Scotland, the berries were originally wild-harvested but with the loss of suitable habitat, the plants have become so scarce that this is no longer done.
Cranberry vines are propagated by moving vines from an established bed. The vines are spread on the surface of the sand of the new bed and pushed into the sand with a blunt disk. The vines are watered frequently during the first few weeks until roots form and new shoots grow. Beds are given frequent light application of nitrogen fertilizer during the first year. The cost of establishment for new cranberry beds is estimated to be about US$70,000 per hectare (approx. $28,300 per acre).
A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture. Beds are flooded in the autumn to facilitate harvest and again during the winter to protect against low temperatures. In cold climates like Wisconsin, Maine, and eastern Canada, the winter flood typically freezes into ice, while in warmer climates the water remains liquid. When ice forms on the beds, trucks can be driven onto the ice to spread a thin layer of sand that helps to control pests and rejuvenate the vines. Sanding is done every three to five years.
Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red colour. This is usually in September through the first part of November. To harvest cranberries, the beds are flooded with six to eight inches of water above the vines. A harvester is driven through the beds to remove the fruit from the vines. For the past 50 years, water reel type harvesters have been used. Harvested cranberries float in the water and can be corralled into a corner of the bed and conveyed or pumped from the bed. From the farm, cranberries are taken to receiving stations where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored prior to packaging or processing.
Although most cranberries are wet-picked as described above, 5–10% of the US crop is still dry-picked. This entails higher labour costs and lower yield, but dry-picked berries are less bruised and can be sold as fresh fruit instead of having to be immediately frozen or processed. Originally performed with two-handed comb scoops, dry picking is today accomplished by motorized, walk-behind harvesters which must be small enough to traverse beds without damaging the vines.
White cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that have been harvested after the fruits are mature, but before they have attained their characteristic dark red colour. Yields are lower on beds harvested early and the early flooding tends to damage vines, but not severely.
Cranberries for fresh market are stored in shallow bins or boxes with perforated or slatted bottoms, which deter decay by allowing air to circulate. Because harvest occurs in late autumn, cranberries for fresh market are frequently stored in thick walled barns without mechanical refrigeration. Temperatures are regulated by opening and closing vents in the barn as needed. Cranberries destined for processing are usually frozen in bulk containers shortly after arriving at a receiving station.
About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice drinks, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% are sold fresh to consumers.
Cranberries are normally considered too sharp to be eaten plain and raw, as they are not only sour but bitter as well. Cranberry juice is a major use of cranberries; it is usually either sweetened to make “cranberry juice cocktail” or blended with other fruit juices to reduce its natural severe tartness. Many cocktails, including the Cosmopolitan, are made with cranberry juice.
Usually cranberries as fruit are cooked into a compote or jelly, known as cranberry sauce. Such preparations are traditionally served with roast turkey, as a staple of English Christmas dinners, and the Canadianand US holiday Thanksgiving. The berry is also used in baking (muffins, scones and cakes). Less commonly, innovative cooks use cranberries to add tartness to savory dishes such as soups and stews.
Fresh cranberries can be frozen at home, and will keep up to nine months; they can be used directly in recipes without thawing.
Cranberry wine is made in some of the cranberry-growing regions of the United States and Canada from either whole cranberries, cranberry juice or cranberry juice concentrate.
There is potential benefit of cranberry juice consumption against bacterial infections in the urinary system. Laboratory research shows that a possible effect may occur from a component of the juice inhibiting bacterial attachment to the bladder and urethra. Although promising for anti-bacterial activity, long-term consumption of cranberry juice has not been adequately proven to reduce urinary tract infections. However, there is preliminary evidence for possible effects against urinary tract infections in women. It is thought that cranberry proanthocyanidins are responsible for the apparent efficacy of consuming cranberry juice against urinary tract infections. Their mechanism of action may be related to inhibition of adherence of Escherichia coli to urothelial cells. Similar applications have not been successfully proven in other clinical trials of consuming cranberry juice or tablets by people with spinal cord injury associated with bladder catheterization, neurogenic bladder or infrequent urination, any of which may be associated with increased susceptibility to bacterial infections
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