Cranberries 101

November 08, 2017

It's that time of year when cranberries are in season and make a great addition to holiday tables.

What are cranberries? We all know the cranberry as a tart, bright red berry popular at Thanksgiving. Did you know the cranberry is related to the blueberry and grows wild as a shrub. The cranberries we get in the store are more often cultivated on vines in sandy bogs, primarily in Northern US and Canada. 

How to Buy: Frozen cranberries are available year around; fresh available from late September thru early December, just in time for the holidays. Look for deep burgundy red color; berries should be firm to the touch and uniform in color. 

How to Read the Label: Most cranberries sold are grown in the US, but some are grown in Canada and should contain only cranberries. Note suggested ways to store and expiration on bag.

How to Use: Add fresh or cooked to desserts or savory dishes as you would any berry. They are tart and may require some sweetening. Do not thaw frozen berries; rinse with cold water, drain, and use. For fresh, rinse, drain well, and use. Always sort through for stems or bruised berries. 

How to Store: Fresh: Refrigerate in original package, up to two weeks. Frozen: Freeze up to 6 months. 

Health Benefits: Low in calories (25 per ½ cup fresh,) provides 10% of RDA Vitamin C; contains manganese, vitamin K, and fiber, as well as high quantities of antioxidants. Good for kidneys (has antibacterial agent, hippuric acid), gastrointestinal, and oral health (if unsweetened). Lowers LDL and raises HDL. May aid stroke recovery and prevent cancer. Tannins unique to cranberries and blueberries are anti-bacterial; proanthocyanidins disrupts bacterial communication.

Smart Shopping: Buy fresh berries during season and freeze in the original packaging, up to 6 months.