What’s so great about cranberries?
Cranberries: superfood, farming and harvesting, and how to eat them!
Cranberries. Seems like we only see this superfood around during the winter holidays. Why is that? The harvest season for cranberries is only from the middle of September through, at the latest, the middle of November, depending on the weather. This is when we see fresh bags of cranberries in grocery stores, which is probably why we tend to eat them for Thanksgiving. So, if you’re trying to be a seasonal eater, cranberries come into play in your late fall and winter months.
What is great about cranberries?
Cranberry farming is its own subculture in the states and countries where they are grown and harvested. I spoke with Lisa Erickson, the wife of a 4th generation cranberry farmer in Middleboro, Massachusetts about her experience living next to the cranberry bogs and what farming life is like. Lisa described the land itself as “mystical with pure, clean air to breathe.” Lisa’s husband works on the farm, and they now have children old enough to begin learning the family business as well. Lisa shared that cranberry farming supports her family both financially and by bringing them together through the work that gets done daily.
Cranberry farming is a year-round business. In Massachusetts, after harvest season, the bogs are typically flooded to protect them from harsh winter conditions. If sufficient ice is formed, sand may be applied on top of the ice to promote new growth for the following year. Then the growing cycle starts all over again until the next harvesting season, where there’s two options – water harvest, which according to Lisa is easier, and dry harvest. The Cranberry Institute website shares that cranberries water harvested are used for processed cranberry juice and sauce, while dry harvested cranberries are packaged as fresh fruit, and eventually end up as the bags we find in the frozen section of markets.
What about cranberries’ health benefits?
The Cranberry Institute has a great infographic about the health benefits of the cranberry on the body. Cranberries have anti-bacterial properties, potential anti-inflammatory effects, are chock-full of antioxidants to fight free-radical production, help the microbiome of your gut, and the jury is still out on your heart and glucose metabolism. Cranberry juice has long been known to prevent UTI’s; and as of late, there has been a lot of controversy over the validity of this statement. There is some conflicting research out there; however, getting cranberries in your diet will not harm you; it will only help your body function more and more at its best!
So how do I eat these powerhouses?
Raw is best, and I totally get it if you look at me cock-eyed the way your dog looks at you when you ask it a question! Cranberries are pretty sour, even if not eaten raw. If you want the juice, read the ingredients and avoid as much sugar as much as you can. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t drink it. A quick tip on juice: the best and healthiest versions tend to be in the refrigerated produce section, or in the “natural food” aisle.
Other ways to eat cranberries would be making a homemade cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving dinner – for which I will be providing my own recipe! Add them to your favorite batter for pancakes, muffins and scones, throw on top of salads, add them to smoothies and oatmeal. The possibilities are endless!
Check out the bonus download for my recipe.